UN Security Council’s protection of civilians’ debate raises concerns over explosive weapons
On Monday 19 August 2013, the United Nations Security Council held an Open Debate on the Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflict, under the Argentinean presidency.
The UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon’s opening statement emphasized the urgency of the humanitarian problem of explosive weapons in populated areas.
“I am particularly concerned about the use of explosive weapons with wide-area effect in populated areas”, said the Secretary-General. “Roadside bombs, heavy weapons and artillery, and air strikes can blindly kill and maim with profound humanitarian consequences. I repeat my call to the Security Council and to Member States to also work through the General Assembly to recognize and act on this critical issue. We need to better understand the types of explosive weapons that are most problematic. We need to examine how existing international law can help regulate use. And we need to consider the concrete steps that can be taken to reduce the humanitarian impact of explosive weapons in populated areas. “
Following Ban Ki-moon’s statement, UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, Valerie Amos told the Council that, “We must consider measures to prevent and mitigate the humanitarian impact of the use, in populated areas, of explosive weapons, which are by their nature indiscriminate within their areas of blast and fragmentation. We need to strengthen the protection of civilians from their effects.” Ms. Amos then stated, “discussion on this matter will take place next month.”
Following the high-level opening statements, several countries emphasized the urgency of the humanitarian impact of the use of explosive weapons in populated areas.
The representative from South Korea expressed his deep concern with the use of explosive weapons in densely populated areas, noting that 78 percent of the 34,000 people killed or injured by explosive weapons in 2012 were civilians; referring to estimates from INEW member Action On Armed Violence’s research.
The representative of Liechtenstein called on all parties in conflict to strictly respect the principles of distinction and proportionality and avoid the use of explosive force in densely populated areas.
Malaysia’s representative called on all parties to restrict the use of heavy weapons and explosive munitions.
Indonesia expressed concern over conflict in densely populated areas including the use of explosive weapons.
In addition to individual country’s statements, the representative for the delegation of the European Union told the Security Council that explosive weapons with a wide-area impact must be avoided in densely populated areas, and that the issue is of serious humanitarian concern.
Chile, speaking on behalf of the Human Security Network, condemned the use of “explosive weapons in populated areas” and called for all parties to refrain from use due to the “severe harm” they cause to civilians. Additionally, the statement called for more systematic data collection on this issue.