A new report from Landmine Action, entitled Explosive Violence- The Problem of Explosive Weapons, highlights the humanitarian impact of explosive weapons. It presents explosive weapons (e.g. bombs, artillery shells, rockets, grenades) as a category of technology generally considered unacceptable where those employing armed force are directly responsible to the population amongst whom they are operating. The general exclusion of explosive weapons from civilian ownership or from use in domestic policing by states is so widespread that we tend to take it for granted. Yet in this pattern of common practice there are grounds for asking critical questions about when, where and amongst whom the use of explosive weapons is held to be acceptable.

In his May 2009 report on the Protection of Civilians, the UN Secretary-General expressed increasing concern at the humanitarian impact of explosive weapons – noting in particular the severe and indiscriminate effects of certain explosive weapons when used in densely populated areas.

From air strikes in Afghanistan and Georgia, to artillery attacks in Gaza and car-bombs in Baghdad, the use of explosive weapons in populated areas is a consistent cause of severe civilian suffering. The direct deaths and injuries in such attacks are likely to be in the tens of thousands each year, and these are augmented by related patterns of psychological harm and social and economic losses. In addition, there are further indirect costs that come from damage to infrastructure and the ongoing threat of munitions left unexploded.

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