On the International Day for Mine Awareness, Humanity & Inclusion warns that civilians cannot continue to bear the brunt of global conflicts, with casualty rates rising drastically worldwide.
Recent studies from Action on Armed Violence (AOAV), and the 2017 Landmine Monitor paint a terrifying picture. Explosive weapons killed or injured 32,008 civilians in 2016 (out of 45,624 total victims), according to AOVA. The most recent Landmine Monitor recorded a dramatic increase in landmine and explosive remnants of war casualties over the past three years. Syria, Afghanistan, Libya, Ukraine and Yemen are among the main countries affected.
These alarming statistics are directly linked to the massive use of explosive weapons in populated areas in recent conflicts (Iraq, Syria, Yemen, etc.), including prohibited weapons such as anti-personnel mines and cluster bombs. When used in populated areas, civilians make up 90% of victims of these devastating weapons.
The massive and repeated use of explosive weapons is a terrifying hallmark of the Syrian Crisis. According to a census by the International NGO Safety Organisation (INSO), 33,394 attacks involving explosive weapons took place in Syria in 2017 (70% of the incidents recorded). This is the heaviest toll recorded by the Observatory since the publication of its first annual report in 2000 (9,228 victims recorded in 1999). The number of new victims increased for the third consecutive year, after 15 years of almost continuous decline.
The use of explosive weapons in populated areas leaves deadly pollution in its wake. Air strikes launched on February 18, 2018 in Eastern Ghouta, Syria, left the region heavily contaminated and resulted in more than 1,100 deaths. During the offensive in Raqqa in 2017, massive air strikes and artillery fire devastated the town and densely contaminated it with explosive remnants. It will take years to clear these areas.
"A significant percentage of bombs, missiles, shells, etc., do not explode on impact,” explains HI Advocacy Director Anne Héry. “These explosive remnants are a lasting threat to civilian lives long after conflict, a threat identical to the one posed by anti-personnel mines.”
Such contamination prevents people from returning home when conflicts ends, adds HI Head of Mine Action, Thomas Hugonnier. “In Iraq, in Syria, this pollution has reached an unprecedented level which will require mine clearance operations for many years. It also makes risk education sessions essential to teach the population to have the right reflexes when faced with an explosive remnant and thus to protect themselves against the risks of accidents.”
HI calls on the international community to redouble efforts to implement the Mine Ban Treaty and the Convention on Cluster Munitions. The U.S. has yet to join these life- and limb-saving treaties. Countries must also commit resolutely at the international level to put an end to the use of explosive weapons in populated areas.
HI’s latest international campaign, after those against cluster munitions and landmines, is urging the world to "Stop Bombing Civilians." The association aims to collect 1 million signatures for submission to political decision-makers in September 2018. HI works within the International Network on Explosive Weapons (INEW) coalition to encourage countries to commit to ending the use of explosive weapons in populated areas.
Published last November, the Landmine Monitor documented a staggering increase in the number of victims from mine and explosive remnants of war in 2016. The report shows that the number of new victims of industrial or homemade mines and explosive remnants of war has increased 2.5-fold in three years, from 3,450 in 2013 to 8,605 in 2016. The Monitor is produced by the International Campaign to Ban Landmines, which was co-founded by six NGOs including Humanity & Inclusion.