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Explosive Violence

New report reveals threat to civilians from use of ‘explosive weapons’

Calls for the use of explosive weapons in populated areas to be restricted on humanitarian grounds

01/08/2009 A new report, released today by Landmine Action in collaboration with Medact, shows that explosive weapons kill and injure more civilians than military personnel worldwide.

The report, Explosive Violence: the problem of explosive weapons, says the use of these weapons in populated areas, whether by governments or terrorists, consistently causes unacceptable civilian suffering.

To view the report click here  

The report challenges the continued acceptance of the use of explosive weapons in populated areas as a normal part of armed conflict. “Too often it is new or unusual weapons that hit the headlines, but for civilians living in conflict zones it is usually conventional bombs and explosive shells that do the most damage,” said Sebastian Taylor, Chief Executive of Landmine Action.

Explosive weapons, such as air dropped bombs, artillery shells, improvised explosive devices (IEDs), and car and truck bombs, create explosive blast and fragmentation over a wide area. The researchers examined 1,836 reported incidents over a six month period in 2006. From a sample of nearly 2,000 incidents, they found that civilians made up 88% of casualties from explosive weapons in populated areas, compared to 44% away from towns and villages.

 “From car-bombs in Baghdad, artillery in Gaza and Sri Lanka, to airstrikes in Afghanistan, explosive weapons, particularly in populated areas, destroy lives and livelihoods,” said Marion Birch, Director of the health charity Medact. “As well as civilians being killed and wounded during attacks, vital infrastructure including houses, schools, hospitals and water supplies are damaged and destroyed, with dire consequences for public health and often reversing decades of hard-won development.”

The report coincides with growing concern about civilian deaths at both the highest levels of the UN and among coalition partners in the Afghan conflict. UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon released a report in May this year in which he stated that he was “increasingly concerned at the humanitarian impact of explosive weapons, in particular when used in densely populated areas.”

Newly installed commander of NATO forces in Afghanistan, General Stanley McChrystal has signalled a move away from airstrikes in populated areas, to try to prevent civilian casualties undermining the perceived legitimacy of the military effort.

However, the report highlights the frequent use of explosive weapons in populated areas by non-state armed groups - a major cause of civilian casualties internationally that needs to be brought into sharper humanitarian focus.

“Explosive weapons are rejected from use in policing because they are likely to kill and injure too many innocent people. If you use explosive weapons in populated areas you send a message that you are not accountable to that community. These decisions serve as a litmus test between those that put civilian protection first and those that do not,” said Richard Moyes, Policy Director of Landmine Action.

The report calls on governments to avoid using explosive weapons in populated areas, to collect and publish data on the impact of explosive weapons to demonstrate their willingness to be accountable, to make public their policies about when and where different explosive weapons should be used, and to act on their responsibility to assist victims of explosive weapons.

Statistical analysis in the report is based on 1,836 newswire reported incidents of explosive weapon use over a 6 month period in 2006. Landmine Action and Medact used the Taback Coupland method to generate data - for further information on this methodology see www.insecurityinsight.org

The immediate impact of these incidents was reported to be 6,115 people killed and 12,670 wounded. When incidents took place away from towns and villages 44% of casualties were civilians – in populated areas civilians made up 88% of casualties. In total there were 4,237 reported civilians killed and 10,556 civilians reported wounded.

Incidents of explosive weapons use occurred in 58 countries or disputed territories – the highest numbers of incidents were reported in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, Sri Lanka, Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories, Turkey and Lebanon.

Individual incidents resulted, on average in 3.33 persons killed and 6.90 wounded.

In addition to data on people killed and injured at the time of attacks, the report also analyses the types of injuries caused by explosive weapons, the impact of explosive weapons on civilian infrastructure (such as schools, hospitals, housing, power, water and sanitation systems), and the longer-term impact of unexploded weapons that continue to kill and injure after conflict.



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