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ICRC highlights explosive weapons in report on “International humanitarian law and the challenges of contemporary armed conflicts”

In advance of 32nd Conference of the Red Cross and Red Crescent in Geneva this December, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has released a paper on “International humanitarian law and the challenges of contemporary armed conflicts.” The report includes a section on explosive weapons in populated areas, which the report notes remains “high on the international agenda.”

The ICRC notes in the report that though hostilities “are increasingly being conducted in population centres,” conflict parties continue to use weapons systems “originally designed for use in open battlefields,” noting that when explosive weapons, particularly those with wide area effects (a concept the report elaborates on), are used in populated areas, the consequences for civilians are often devastating. The report also notes that the ICRC documents the impact of the use of explosive weapons in populated areas in different conflicts, has been examining the technical characteristics of types of explosive weapons that may have wide area effects in population centres, and has been engaging with armed forces on policy and practice in relation to these weapons, as well as conducting legal analysis on this topic. Reflections on these themes are given in the report.

The ICRC’s report to the previous Conference of the Red Cross and Red Crescent stated: “due to the significant likelihood of indiscriminate effects and despite the absence of an express legal prohibition for specific types of weapons, the ICRC considers that explosive weapons with a wide impact area should be avoided in densely populated areas” and in 2013 the Red Cross and Red Crescent movement called on states to  “strengthen the protection of civilians from the indiscriminate use and effects of explosive weapons, including through the rigorous application of existing rules of international humanitarian law, and to avoid using explosive weapons with a wide impact area in densely populated areas.”

Download this report.

Watch a video infographic the ICRC recently produced on the reverberating effects of the use of explosive weapons in populated areas:

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