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INEW Bulletin #14 with key developments, past and upcoming events, research, policy and advocacy news on explosive weapons issues. 

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INEW bulletin #14

February 2015

Austria delivers their statement to the January 2015 UN Security Council open debate on the protection of civilians, noting particular concern at the "indiscriminate harm caused by any use of explosive weapons in populated areas" (UNTV webcast)
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Austria announced that it will hold an expert meeting on explosive weapons in September in Vienna. The announcement was made during the latest UN Security Council open debate on the protection of civilians, in January 2015. The Vienna meeting will follow previous discussions hosted by Norway in Oslo in 2014, and by Chatham House with the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) in 2013. Past expert meetings highlighted the need to focus on the wide area effects that certain explosive weapons cause, and to identify practical operational steps that can be taken to move away from using wide-area effect weapons near civilian populations.


INEW encourages the discussion in Vienna of an international commitment to stop the use in populated areas of explosive weapons with wide area effects. Building on existing international law, such a commitment would serve to articulate a clearer standard of practice. The development and endorsement of such an international commitment would significantly enhance the protection of civilians. 


"Indiscriminate harm": Explosive weapons in populated areas raised at protection debate
On 30 January 2015 the UN Security Council held a debate on civilian protection under the Chilean presidency. A number of delegations drew attention to the devastating impacts of explosive weapons in populated areas in their statements. 

Austria noted the "indiscriminate harm" caused by the use of explosive weapons in populated areas, commending the efforts of the UN Secretary-General and UNOCHA to raise awareness of the problem and gather information on states' policies. Costa Rica expressed their support for an “international commitment on ending the use of explosive munitions in densely populated areas”. The Emergency Relief Coordinator also highlighted the threat that explosive weapons pose to civilians, and the need for states to heed the UN Secretary-General’s previous call to refrain from their use in populated areas. More

In advance of the January debate, INEW distributed a briefing paper to state representatives. This highlighted the implications of explosive weapons use for civilian protection, updated states on current progress on the issue, and also addressed the debate’s theme of women, peace and security, with reference to Reaching Critical Will's work on women and explosive weapons

Over forty states and other actors have now publicly raised concerns about the impact of explosive weapons in populated areas. More

It is expected that the UN Secretary-General will release his next report on the protection of civilians in armed conflict in May, with an open debate on the report in July.

Read the INEW briefing paper released ahead of the UNSC open debate on the protection of civilians

INEW activity at the UN General Assembly First Committee
Austria, with INEW, hosted a side event on protecting civilians from the use of explosive weapons in populated area on 22 October 2014. For INEW, Steve Goose of Human Rights Watch (HRW), Maya Brehm on behalf of PAX, and Richard Moyes of Article 36 gave briefings on humanitarian and legal aspects, and the need to develop new standards. Norway reiterated its support for the agenda and reported on the last expert meeting in Oslo. Mexico also indicated its support for work on this issue. OCHA and the ICRC highlighted their work towards greater protection for civilians from the use of explosive weapons in populated areas. More

Throughout the UN First Committee, INEW representatives also held bilateral meetings with a range of states to discuss the use of explosive weapons in populated areas, and the development of a political instrument to prevent such harm.

INEW made a statement to the First Committee, highlighting the unacceptable harm caused by the use of explosive weapons with wide area effects in populated areas. INEW urged states to recognise the issue, and to respond to the UN Secretary-General's note verbale calling for information about state policy and practice regarding explosive weapon use. More

Afghanistan, Austria, Costa Rica and the Netherlands noted strong concerns about explosive weapon use in statements to First Committee debates. Costa Rica and the Netherlands were speaking for the first time on this issue. Armenia and the Democratic Republic of Congo also mentioned explosive weapons, and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) called for more attention from states on this issue, based on the organisation’s operational experiences. More

Read the INEW briefing paper released ahead of the First Committee: Protecting civilians from the use of explosive weapons in populated areas
 

Events

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ICRC experts meeting on explosive weapons, 24-25 February 2015, Geneva, Switzerland

This closed experts meeting, entitled “Explosive Weapons in Populated Areas: humanitarian, legal, technical and military aspects”, explored the impact on civilians of the use of explosive weapons in populated areas, the applicable legal framework, the technical characteristics and effects of common explosive weapons, and relevant military policy and practice. Experts from governments, the UN, NGOs and independent experts attended, including representatives from INEW member organisations. A report is expected to follow.

Vienna expert meeting on explosive weapons in populated areas, September 2015, Vienna, Austria

As announced during the UN Security Council open debate on protection of civilians, Austria will be hosting an expert meeting on explosive weapons in September in Vienna. The meeting will be a follow up to previous meetings hosted by Norway in Oslo in 2014, and by Chatham House with the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) in 2013. Attendance at the meeting will be by invitation. 

Policy, research & advocacy

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Human Rights Watch: World Report highlights devastating impact of explosive weapons in populated areas

In their 25th annual review of human rights practices around the globe, INEW member Human Rights Watch (HRW) reported that "most civilians killed or wounded in warfare today are the victims of explosive weapons…detonated in populated areas", and observed the growing international momentum to address explosive weapons use. Drawing on extensive investigative fieldwork from their researchers, the report's chapter 'Deadly Cargo' shows explosive weapon use to be a critical issue for civilian protection. More

Amnesty International: Restricting use of explosive weapons in populated areas would protect civilians

In their annual report for 2014/15, 'The State of the World's Human Rights', Amnesty International also highlighted the need to address explosive weapons as a civilian protection issue, stating: "One step that could be taken to protect civilians in conflict would be to further restrict the use of explosive weapons in populated areas. This would have saved many lives in Ukraine". The need to curb explosive weapons use was also highlighted in a video accompanying the report. More


Ukraine: HRW and AOAV on the toll for civilians of explosive weapons

Investigating the rising casualty numbers in Ukraine during January 2015, HRW again documented the severe toll that the use of explosive weapons in populated areas, including unguided rockets, is taking on civilians. Their report noted “frequent strikes on residential or civilian buildings, and corresponding civilian casualties, indicate that neither side is capable of targeting these weapons accurately enough to ensure that using them in populated areas is not indiscriminate”. It issued the call that “both sides to the conflict should stop using unguided rockets and explosive weapons with wide-area effects in populated areas” in order to protect civilians. Their report documents numerous cases showing the devastating effects of explosive weapons on civilians in Ukraine. More

INEW member Action on Armed Violence (AOAV) also published a short analysis in January of the bombardment of Mariupol, analysing the weapons used and the humanitarian harm caused. More

AOAV: Comparison of US and UK military policies in Iraq shows that the harm to civilians is greater where the rules on using explosive weapons in populated areas are more permissive

Analysis by AOAV of US and UK military policy and practice in Iraq published in February showed that the US military’s use of explosive weapons in Fallujah during 2004 disproportionately affected Iraqi civilians when compared to UK use of similar weapons in the battle for Basra in 2003. AOAV's report 'A Tale of Two Cities' documents how the UK treated Basra city as a ‘restricted fire zone’, where the use of heavy explosive weapons like large-calibre artillery was tightly monitored. On the other hand, US rules of engagement made it far easier for commanders to authorise heavy explosive weapon use in populated areas in Fallujah. Civilian casualties in Fallujah were far higher. More

Unacceptable Risk: PAX report on the use of explosive weapons in populated areas through the lens of three cases before the ICTY

In their report 'Unacceptable Risk', released in October 2014, INEW member PAX examined how military experts assessed the acceptability of explosive weapon use in three cases brought before the International Criminal Tribunal for Former Yugoslavia (ICTY). PAX found that many of the experts considered that it was inappropriate to use explosive weapons such as unguided rockets and grenades in cities. However, the report also found that existing legal rules on the protection of civilians leave room for differing interpretations with respect to the use of explosive weapons in populated areas. New international standards to stop such practice are therefore required. More

PAX policy paper: Explosive weapons in populated areas, where civilians pay the price (updated)

In an update on their paper of February 2014, PAX gives an overview of the problems around the use of explosive weapons in populated areas and particularly in Syria in this briefing. The paper calls upon states to acknowledge the harm caused, to gather data, to review and strengthen existing national policies and to develop new international standards to prevent the use of explosive weapons with wide area effects in populated areas, and to condemn incidents of such use. More

AOAV: Analysis of victim assistance following the Boston bombings

In January, AOAV released the report 'Blood on the Street of Boston'. This analysed the wide-ranging harm caused by the IED attack on the Boston marathon in 2013, and the extensive and long-lasting assistance requirements for survivors, as well as how these were responded to by the state and other actorsMore

AOAV: Explosive violence in January 2015

AOAV's latest update from their explosive violence dataset reports that there were more than 3000 casualties from explosive violence last month, 71% of whom were civilians. More

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