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Five years of data on harm from explosive weapons shows devastating impact on civilians

Men dig through rubble in a residential compound housing employees of the Mokha Steam Power Plant and their families following an airstrike by the Saudi-led coalition that killed at least 65 civilians in Mokha, Yemen on July 24, 2015. (© Ole Solvang/Human Rights Watch)

Men dig through rubble in a residential compound  following an airstrike by the Saudi-led coalition that killed at least 65 civilians in Mokha, Yemen on July 24, 2015. (© Ole Solvang/Human Rights Watch)

Since 2011, Action on Armed Violence (AOAV) has monitored reported incidents of the use of explosive weapons around the world, using English-language media reports to collate over five years of systematic data. In a review of this data released today, AOAV report that when explosive weapons are used in populated areas, 91% of those report killed are civilians. Civilians make up 77% of all casualties in their data. AOAV recorded 110 countries as affected by explosive violence between 2011 and the end of 2015, and a total of 188,325 deaths and injuries from 12,566 incidents of explosive weapons use.

Though the data does not represent a comprehensive account of casualties from explosive weapons, the consistent and devastating pattern of harm to civilians from the use of explosive weapons in populated areas is clear. Almost 70 states recognising the specific harm caused by explosive weapons, with over 50 calling for action on this issue, and work is currently underway to develop a political declaration on preventing harm from the use of explosive weapons in populated areas, as a first step towards addressing this problem. States must commit to stop the use of explosive weapons with wide-area effects in populated areas in order to better protect civilians living through conflict.

The main findings of AOAV’s report are:

  • When explosive weapons were used in populated areas, 91% of reported casualties were civilians. In other areas, 33% of casualties were civilians
  • Of 188,325 deaths and injuries recorded between 2011 and 2015, 145,565 (77%) were reported to be civilians
  • Year on year increases in casualties from explosive violence have been recorded by AOAV since 2011. In 2015, 43,795 casualties were recorded, 45% more than in 2011. In 2015 33,307 civilian deaths and injuries were recorded, 54% more than in 2011
  • AOAV has recorded incidents in 110 countries, with 61 countries and territories affected each year on average. Iraq, Syria, Pakistan, Afghanistan and Yemen have seen the highest levels of harm over the past five years
  • Between 2011 and 2015 AOAV recorded 35,976 casualties from air-launched weaponry, of which 21,280 (59%) were civilians. When air-launched weapons were used in populated areas, 86% of casualties were civilians, compared to 19% in other areas. 2014 and 2015 saw a spike in casualties of air-launched weaponry. 9,200 civilian deaths and injuries were recorded in 2015 – 4.5 times the level of 2013.
  • Ground-launched weaponry caused 39,347 casualties, of which 32,903 (84%) were civilians. When used in populated areas, 92% of those killed and injured were civilians, compared to 38% in other areas

Download the report: Patterns of harm: Five years of explosive violence 2011 – 2015 (August 2016)

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