Introduction – explosive weapons
Explosive weapons are weapons that use high explosive to project blast and / or fragmentation from a point of detonation. Common types of explosive weapons include artillery, mortars and air-dropped bombs as well as landmines and improvised explosive devices. Because of their inherent characteristics of blast and fragmentation, explosive weapons have been shown to cause serious humanitarian and development concerns when used in populated areas. In addition, landmines and unexploded ordnance have severe humanitarian and development consequence long after conflicts have ended.
Action on Armed Violence published a report in 2009 that sets out the problem of explosive weapons and argues for recognition by states and organisations that explosive weapons constitute a category of weapons that require specific attention and action to prevent humanitarian suffering and long term development harm.
On the website of its project ‘Discourse on Explosive Weapons’, UNIDIR notes that:
The use of explosive weapons in populated areas is a major source of civilian harm, one increasingly recognized as a distinct humanitarian concern, as shown elsewhere on this website. Recently, the out-going Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs (USG/ERC), John Holmes, elaborated these concerns in a statement to the UN Security Council.
There is tacit recognition of explosive weapons as a category (they are not generally used in domestic policing for example). In addition Protocol V of the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons requires states to record their use of explosive ordnance and to clear it up after a conflict. However, no international instruments exist dealing with the problem of explosive weapons in all their aspects, in particular the problems they pose when used in populated areas. Article 36 believes that new national and international rules, including certain prohibitions and restrictions, are required to protect civilians from the use of explosive weapons in populated areas.
The International Network on Explosive Weapons (INEW) was founded in 2011 to address this issue. INEW is an NGO partnership calling for immediate action to prevent human suffering from the use of explosive weapons in populated areas. It is governed by a Steering Committee whose members are Action on Armed Violence, Article 36, Handicap International, Human Rights Watch, Norwegian People’s Aid, Oxfam, PAX, Save the Children and the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom. INEW is calling on states to develop a common commitment to stop the use in populated areas of explosive weapons that have wide area effects – a move for which a number of states have now expressed their support.