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New reports on displacement and wide area effect explosive weapons

Reports released by INEW members over the past week have highlighted the strong correlation between the use of explosive weapons in populated areas and forced displacement, as well as the particularly harmful impacts for civilians when explosive weapons with wide area effects are used in populated areas.

Tal Dar hospital in Aleppo, Syria. © Hannah Lucinda Smith

Tal Dar hospital in Aleppo, Syria. © Hannah Lucinda Smith

Based on interviews and a literature review, Handicap International’s study “Qasef: Escaping the bombing – The use of explosive weapons in populated areas and forced displacement: perspectives from Syrian refugees” indicates that forced displacement in Syria is strongly linked with the use of explosive weapons in populated areas. As a result of the Syrian civil war, over 10.9 million Syrians are displaced: 6.1 million within Syria, and 4.8 million as refugees. Most of the Syrians interviewed by Handicap International stressed that the main reason for them leaving their home was the use of explosive weapons in their villages, towns and cities.

Handicap International calls on all parties to the conflict to immediately cease all attacks on civilians and civilian facilities in Syria and to end the use of explosive weapons with wide area effects in populated areas. It also calls on the international community to strongly condemn the use of explosive weapons in populated areas, especially those with wide area effects, in Syria, and to support the development of an international commitment to end this practice.

Against the background of international recognition of the humanitarian problems caused by the use of explosive weapons in populated areas, “Areas of harm: Understanding explosive weapons with wide area effects,” a new report by PAX and Article 36, analyses how certain explosive weapons create wide area effects.

The report shows how in some contexts certain explosive weapons are as likely, if not more likely, to cause harm to the civilian population as to damage a specific military target. The report discusses how the area effects of certain explosive weapons are already recognised in some military policy and practice as having a direct link to the risk presented to civilians. PAX and Article 36 conclude that this recognition  must be consolidated in a new political declaration with concrete commitments on measures to reduce harm.

States are meeting in New York this week to discuss how civilian harm from the use of explosive weapons in populated areas can be prevented, and will be focusing on the elements necessary for a political declaration. These new reports add to the large body of evidence on the problem of explosive weapons, and suggest how states must respond – first and foremost, through stopping the use of explosive weapons with wide area effects in populated areas.

Download these reports:

Qasef: Escaping the bombing – The use of explosive weapons in populated areas and forced displacement: perspectives from Syrian refugees (September 2016)

Areas of harm: Understanding explosive weapons with wide area effects (October 2016)

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