During the talks in Geneva there was a focus on the need to change military best practices. At the talks representatives from HI, which leads the international Stop Bombing Civilians campaign to end the use of explosive weapons in populated areas, focused on the humanitarian consequences of war.
Civilians at risk
Conflicts are more frequently taking place in urban areas, and explosive weapons are almost systematically used. In such circumstances, civilians and civilian infrastructures are increasingly at risk. The use of explosive weapons in populated areas has disastrous effects on civilians such as death, injury, displacement, destruction of essential infrastructure etc.
According to our partner organization, Action On Armed Violence (AOAV), 92% of the victims of explosive weapons on populated areas, whether used in air-strikes, artillery rounds or as improvised explosive devices, are civilians — this is unacceptable.
At the talks HI’s Disarmament and Protection of Civilians Advocacy Manager, Alma Al-Osta, references HI’s years of experience working to support injured, traumatised and other victims of conflict and urged a renewed focus on Victim Assistance:
“It is the human impact of explosive weapons that motivates us to come together… We believe that it is key to address the issue of Victim Assistance in any discussion related to EWIPA: that in addition to improved military policies and practices and data collection, we also discuss the reality faced by victims of explosive weapons, the specific challenges to provide Victim Assistance, and solutions proposed to ensure we are truly offering a comprehensive approach to increasing the protection of civilians from explosive weapons.”
Changing military practices
The aim of the Geneva talks was to evaluate military practices: How to review targeting procedures, including collecting the right information on targets? How to select a suitable weapon to carry out the specific weapons deployments, etc.? Discussions also addressed how to prepare and inform civilians during hostilities, how to establish cooperation between military and local authorities, how to renew training and education of military on International Humanitarian Law, among others.
Technical or methodological solutions or recommendations exist to help protect civilians. For example, indirect ‘fires’ often cause excessive collateral damage and should not therefore be used in populated areas (Fire is called “indirect” when the target is not in the line of sight). It is the case with artillery guns, mortars rockets systems, and other similar weapons.
HI calls for better protection of civilians
HI is campaigning for the end of the use of explosive weapons in populated areas and is calling for a political declaration of States to end such practice. But as the declaration is still under negotiations and has a long way to go before being finalised, HI welcomes discussions on how to reduce civilian casualties. We call upon the States to share their best practices—the less impactful for civilians—and to support victim assistance.
During the talks, HI’s team made a presentation on the humanitarian impact of the bombing in populated areas and the specific needs of people affected by explosive weapons, such as rehabilitation services and psychosocial support.