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International expert meeting held on humanitarian impact of explosive weapons

Chatham House and the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) hosted the first meeting of international experts on explosive weapons, from 23-24 September 2013 in London.

Building on concerns raised by the International Network on Explosive Weapons (INEW), the UN Secretary-General, and the ICRC, the meeting sought to explore measures to reduce the impact of explosive weapons on civilians.

The 51 participants included governmental/military experts from Australia, Austria, Germany, Kenya, Mexico, Norway, the United Kingdom and United States of America; United Nations actors; ICRC and civil society organizations under the umbrella of the International Network on Explosive Weapons; and individual military experts, academic and research institutes.

Participants presented on and discussed the range of explosive weapons that exist today and how their use in populated areas can be problematic; current understandings of the actual impact on civilians of the use of explosive weapons in populated areas, in particular in Afghanistan, the occupied Palestinian territory, Somalia and Syria; and efforts to mitigate the humanitarian impacts of explosive weapons use in populated areas.

There was useful discussion of national experiences where operational steps have been taken to reduce the humanitarian impact of explosive weapons. These included briefings on restrictions of airstrikes in the tactical directive issued by the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan, as well as the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) policy restricting the use of indirect fire in populated areas in Somalia

The meeting noted that the general theme of reducing the humanitarian harm from explosive weapons could be divided into three separate but mutually reinforcing areas of work:

  • a presumption of the exclusion of the use of explosive weapons from law enforcement (in the context of human rights law);
  • the development of a presumption against the use of those explosive weapons with wide-area effects in populated areas (in the context of international humanitarian law); and
  • a focus on IEDs from the perspective of the humanitarian harm they cause.

The full report can be found here.

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