HRW calls for agreement to curb use of explosive weapons in populated areas

18 June 2015 (Last Updated June 18th, 2015 18:30)

The Human Rights Watch (HRW) has urged countries to sign an agreement to curb the use of explosive weapons in populated areas after extensive civilian casualties were reported worldwide in the first half of this year.

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The Human Rights Watch (HRW) has urged countries to sign an agreement to curb the use of explosive weapons in populated areas after extensive civilian casualties were reported worldwide in the first half of this year.

Entitled 'Making a Commitment: Paths to Curbing the Use of Explosive Weapons in Populated Areas', HRW's new report documents incidents involving the use of explosive weapons that claimed civilian lives and destroyed critical infrastructure in populated areas of Iraq, Libya, Syria, Sudan, Ukraine, and Yemen.

Published jointly with Harvard Law School's International Human Rights Clinic, the 35-page report argues that countries should develop and implement a new non-binding agreement to reduce the harm from explosive weapons, such as air-dropped bombs, artillery projectiles, mortars, and rockets.

Human Rights Watch senior arms researcher and report co-author Bonnie Docherty said: "The high levels of civilian death and destruction from explosive weapons are avoidable.

"Nations should agree to curtail the use of explosive weapons in populated areas and stop using those with wide-area effects entirely."

The report also provides options for development of a non-binding agreement, which includes a political commitment that would see countries agree to restrict the use of explosive weapons in populated areas.

"The high levels of civilian death and destruction from explosive weapons are avoidable."

Developed either by countries or emerging from the UN system, the new political commitment could take a variety of forms, including a declaration, compilation of regulations, set of guidelines, manual, or a combination of these types.

The organisations have also called for active inclusion of non-governmental organisations, citing that they would bring extensive expertise, as well as humanitarian concerns to the process.

In September, a meeting will be held in Austria to consider how to improve protection of civilians from the use of explosive weapons in populated areas, and also take the next step to initiating a process to develop a new commitment on such weapons.

Docherty said: "Extensive precedent shows that the timely development of an explosive weapons commitment is feasible."


Image: Repeated use of explosive weapons has caused significant damage to the Luhansk airport terminal in eastern Ukraine. Photo: copyright 2014 Human Rights Watch.