Use of banned explosive weapons at highest level since 2010

  • Explosive weapons
  • Afghanistan
  • Colombia
  • Myanmar
  • Syria
  • Tunisia

From Syria to Yemen, Afghanistan, Colombia, Myanmar and Tunisia, the use of banned explosive weapons increased significantly in 2014 and 2015. To mark International Day of Mine Awareness and Assistance in Mine Action, Handicap International is calling for an immediate end to the use of these weapons.

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Unexploded ordnance in Kobane, Syria
Unexploded ordnance in Kobane, Syria

The 4th April is International Mine Action day. Banned under international law, landmines and cluster bombs have been used at an alarming rate in recent years. Cluster munitions use is at its highest level since 2010, when the Convention on Cluster Munitions entered into force.

Handicap International is calling on States and non-State armed groups to immediately end the use of anti-personnel mines and cluster munitions, as well as their sale and transfer.

The vast majority of casualties of anti-personnel mines and cluster munitions are civilians (79% of recorded casualties). Any use of these weapons must be unanimously condemned.

According to the latest Cluster Munition Monitor report, published in August 2015, cluster munitions were used in five countries between July 2014 and July 2015: Libya, Syria, Sudan, Ukraine and Yemen - all States which have not signed the treaty. Not since the ban treaty entered into force in 2010 have so many States or non-State actors been involved in the use of cluster munitions.  According to the Cluster Munition Coalition (CMC), cluster munitions have also been used on numerous occasions in Yemen and Syria.

The latest Landmine Monitor report, published in November 2015, found an alarming and “significant increase” in the use of anti-personnel mines and improvised explosive devices by non-State armed groups in ten countries: Afghanistan, Colombia, Iraq, Libya, Myanmar, Pakistan, Syria, Tunisia, Ukraine and Yemen. The last time the Monitor reported 10 or more countries in which these weapons were used was 2006.

Yemen is a particularly revealing example. For several months, explosive weapons have been used in populated areas on a massive scale, by all parties to the conflict. Anti-personnel mines and cluster munitions have been regularly deployed.

For example, in May 2015, Human Rights Watch confirmed the use of cluster munitions in the north of Saada governorate, close to the Yemeni border with Saudi Arabia. Cluster munitions landed less than 600 metres from several dozen homes. Anti-personnel mines were also used on several occasions during the summer of 2015. In total, since March 2015, Human Rights Watch has recorded 15 incidents involving six types of cluster munitions in at least five of Yemen’s 21 governorates: Amran, Hajja, Hodaida, Saada and Sanaa.

"We must not tolerate brutality"

Anne Hery, Director of Advocacy at Handicap International says, “The world is in the grip of several brutally violent conflicts of which civilians are the main casualties. The shameless use of cluster munitions and the regular use of anti-personnel mines, both banned under international law, underlines the gravity of the situation. We must not tolerate brutality. We need to constantly remind States and armed groups that the use of these weapons is banned and that international law must be upheld.”

“The repeated use of anti-personnel mines and cluster munitions reveals a total disregard for civilian lives and, in some cases, a deliberate intention to target them. Cluster munitions kill and main during an attack. They also leave explosive remnants behind that function like anti-personnel mines and can cause casualties long after a conflict has ended.”

Handicap International is calling on States and non-State armed groups to immediately end the use of anti-personnel mines and cluster munitions, their sale and transfer, to strongly condemn their use under any circumstances and, when they are party to a conflict, to apply pressure on their allies not to use these weapons.

Published 31/03/16

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