FOCUS ON – Explosive Weapons in populated areas | December 18, 2015

When explosive weapons are used in populated areas, the level of civilian harm is usually very high. But what exactly constitutes explosive weapons ? Are they regulated by International Humanitarian Law like anti-personnel mines or cluster munitions? And what is Handicap International’s position regarding their use in populated areas ?     Explosive weapons are […]

When explosive weapons are used in populated areas, the level of civilian harm is usually very high. But what exactly constitutes explosive weapons ? Are they regulated by International Humanitarian Law like anti-personnel mines or cluster munitions? And what is Handicap International’s position regarding their use in populated areas ?

 


 

Explosive weapons are varied in nature and scope, and include, among others, grenades, mortar rounds, artillery shells, rockets as well as aircraft bombs, missiles and improvised explosive devices (IEDs). What they have in common are the appalling human consequences they entail, the death and maiming of innocent civilians. When used in populated areas, civilians are indeed most likely to be the victims of explosive weapons, even when such weapons initially targeted combatants or military objectives.

Civilians not only suffer from the use of explosive weapons but also have to cope with the constant threats of explosive remnants of war, resulting from the use of explosive weapons; or the lack of infrastructure, as they have either been partially or entirely destroyed by the use of explosive weapons. Among others, the use of explosive weapons in populated areas has indeed been reported as the leading cause of damage to healthcare facilities during conflict and armed violence.

As demonstrated in the enclosed article, the use of explosive weapons in populated areas breaches several principles of International Humanitarian Law (IHL): the principle of distinction, precaution and the one of proportionality in attack. Serious violations of IHL amount to war crimes, but it takes times and it is often rather complicated to demonstrate the intentional breach of the laws and customs of war. Besides, justice can only be served a posteriori. Yet, Handicap International would rather preserve civilian life and infrastructure before it’s too late.

To do so, Handicap International calls on all States to endorse a political commitment banning the use of explosive weapons in populated areas. To learn more about the rationale behind this political commitment, understand what constitute explosive weapons, or how their use in populated areas affects civilian life, please download the article enclosed below.

 

Explosive remnants of war in the city of Kobane during an assessment by HI © Ph. Houliat / Handicap International
Explosive remnants of war in the city of Kobane during an assessment by HI © Ph. Houliat / Handicap International

 

Other related documents:

Factsheet – Causes and types of injuries encountered by Handicap International while working with IDPs and refugees from Syria: A focus on the impact of explosive weapons, 2014, Handicap International

Case Study – The use of explosive weapons in Syria – A time bomb in the making: Analysis of weapons contamination in Syria, May 2015, Handicap International


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Posted in Disarmament, HI InstituteTagged