“Stop bombing civilians” says Handicap International on 6th anniversary of the Syrian conflict

Press release | 14th March 2016, 09:00 GMT.

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For six years, Syrians have been the victims of a conflict marked by indiscriminate, high intensity bombing. An average of 94 attacks a day using explosive weapons were reported between September and December 2016. Handicap International, known for its international campaigns that led to the treaties banning landmines and cluster munitions, is calling on all parties to the conflict to end the use of explosive weapons in populated areas. It is also calling on the international community to strongly condemn this practice and to bring it to an end.

According to the United Nations, 13.5 million people need humanitarian assistance in Syria and every month, 30,000 people are injured in conflict-related violence. Between 26th September and 28th December 2016, there were 8,656 attacks using explosive weapons in Syria, an average of 94 bombing or shelling incidents a day. [1]

The number of civilians injured by explosive weapons keeps on increasing. In 2012, the use of explosive weapons in populated areas was responsible for 48% of civilian casualties; this figure rose to 83% in 2016. [2]

Both in Syria and neighbouring countries, Handicap International’s teams have witnessed the suffering and trauma of Syrian refugees and displaced people.

“Bombing and shelling are the rule in the Syrian conflict. They have reached a level of terrifying intensity, with a devastating impact on civilians,” says Aleema Shivji, Executive Director of Handicap International UK. “Cities have been destroyed and their populations traumatised. It will take generations for the country to recover once the conflict is over.”

According to the report ‘QASEF: Escaping the bombing’ published by Handicap International last September, the massive use of explosive weapons in populated areas is an overriding factor in the mass displacement of Syrians. More than 11 million Syrians have been affected - half of the country’s population.

The testimonies gathered by Handicap International reveal that terrorised Syrians fleeing successive attacks are displaced up to 25 times before they find a safe refuge. “Each time we tried to return to the house, but we could not stay because of the bombing. […] We had to move to other cities where armed forces had agreed not to attack. But the agreement was always broken and we had to move again. There is no safe place in Syria” says Ahmed, who found refuge in Jordan after suffering from a brain injury due to shelling.

Besides killing and causing horrific injuries, explosive weapons spread terror, make people fear for their lives, have long-term impact on mental health and devastate vital infrastructures. Homes, hospitals and schools are being destroyed by bombs. Water and electricity networks are also ruined leading to food and water insecurity. The threat to civilians does not stop at the end of a conflict as explosive weapons can stay active for months, even years.

“Under international humanitarian law, civilians must be protected during conflicts,” says Aleema Shivji. “Explosive weapons, including illegal weapons such as cluster munitions and anti-personnel mines, are used in populated areas and have a devastating impact on civilians. The international community must firmly and systematically condemn these practices.”


Notes

[1] International NGO Safety Organisation (INSO).

[2] The Integrated Regional Information Network (IRIN).

• On 15th March 2017, Handicap International launches a global campaign to collect one million signatures to “Stop bombing civilians”. The signatures will be presented to policy makers in September 2018. As a member of the INEW (International Network on Explosive Weapons) coalition, the organisation has drawn up a political declaration on ending the use of explosive weapons in populated areas. It is calling on States to sign it and support it.  

•  The petition can be signed at www.stop-bombing-civilians.org along with more information about the campaign.

• Handicap International’s report ‘Qasef, escaping the bombing” is available here (pdf, 4.13 MB).

• Aleema Shivji, Executive Director of Handicap International UK, is available for interviews.

Press contact
Marlene Sigonney, Handicap International UK
Email: media[at]hi-uk.org
Tel: +44 (0)870 774 3737 | Mobile: +44 (0)7508 810 520

About Handicap International
Co-winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, Handicap International is a charity working in situations of poverty and exclusion, conflict and disaster. We work tirelessly alongside disabled and vulnerable people to help meet their basic needs, improve their living conditions and promote respect for their dignity and fundamental rights.

After a 30-year campaign against anti-personnel landmines and cluster munitions which led to the 1997 Mine Ban Convention and the 2008 Convention on Cluster Munitions, Handicap International is now taking action to stop the use of explosive weapons in populated areas. Handicap International is a founding member of the International Campaign to Ban Landmines, the Cluster Munition Coalition and the International Network on Explosive Weapons.

Handicap International and the Syrian crisis: Since the start of its operations in 2012, Handicap International has provided assistance to more than 550,000 people and their families. The organisation has fitted more than 9,000 people with prostheses and orthoses. More than 85,000 people have benefited from physical and functional rehabilitation sessions and more than 20,000 people received psychological support.

Published 13/03/17

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