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7th anniversary of the Syrian conflict: HI urges “Stop Bombing Civilians”

Press release | London, 13th March 2018, 10:30 GMT

Malak was badly injured in a bombing in Syria and lost one of her legs as a result.

Malak was badly injured in a bombing in Syria and lost one of her legs as a result. | © Elisa Fourt/HI

On the occasion of the 7th anniversary of the Syrian conflict, Humanity & Inclusion (HI) is relaunching its "Stop Bombing Civilians" campaign against the bombing of civilian populations. When explosive weapons are used in populated areas, which has become commonplace in current conflicts in Iraq, Yemen and Syria, 92% of the victims are civilians. HI calls on the general public to sign a global petition asking states to end the use of explosive weapons in populated areas. Our goal is to obtain 1 million signatures to submit to the United Nations and political decision makers in September 2018.

For seven years, Syrian people have been the victims of a conflict marked by intense and continuous use of explosive weapons: massive bombing raids on Eastern Ghouta since the 18th February 2018 have killed more than 500 people and destroyed countless civilian infrastructures, including hospitals and health centres. In parallel, bombing and shelling on central areas of Damascus has caused dozens of casualties. Over the last few months, military offensives including heavy bombing raids and shelling have killed hundreds of civilians in Idlib governorate, Raqqa governorate and Afrin district.

In the countries affected by the Syrian crisis, HI teams witness the suffering and trauma of the Syrian population - victims of a conflict marked by the repeated heavy use of explosive weapons. According to a survey of the International NGO Safety Organization (INSO), 33,394 attacks involving explosive weapons took place in Syria in 2017, accounting for 70% of reported incidents. This represents an average of 91 attacks, in the form of bombing or shelling, every day.

The humanitarian consequences of bombing civilians are horrendous: serious and disabling injuries, heavy psychological trauma, forced displacements and impoverishment of the populations, destruction of essential infrastructures (hospitals, ports, bridges, etc.), break down of the social and economic structures... According to the Syria, A Mutilated Future factsheet published by HI in May 2016, among the injuries sustained as a result of the Syrian crisis, 53% are due to the use of explosive weapons. 89% of people with injuries due to the use of explosive weapons have permanent or temporary physical impairments.

Bombing is a practice observed in most current and recent conflicts (Iraq, Syria, Yemen...). According to the latest Action on Armed Violence (AOAV) report, released in May 2017, 45,624 people were killed or injured by explosive weapons in 2016 around the world. 32,088 of these victims (70%) were civilians. When explosive weapons are used in populated areas, the number of civilian casualties rises to at least 92%.

Bombing civilians is not war, it's a crime. According to International Humanitarian Law (IHL), all precautions must be taken to protect civilians and they must not be subjected to indiscriminate or disproportionate attacks. These fundamental principles of IHL must be firmly defended and applied.

"Bombing and shelling have become the norm in the conflict in Syria. Bombardments have reached a terrible intensity with devastating effects on civilian populations: families torn apart, cities ravaged, mass flight of populations, explosive remnants contaminating entire neighbourhoods ... Through our public campaign and petition, we aim to exert maximum pressure on States to develop a declaration to reduce suffering of civilians living in conflict by stopping the use of explosive weapons in populated areas. Only a focused outcry from appalled members of the public can help to find political solutions and put an end to the carnage," explains Aleema Shivji, Executive Director of Humanity & Inclusion UK.

With its "Stop Bombing Civilians" campaign, HI is calling states to take immediate action and develop a political declaration to reduce harm and increase the protection of civilians living through conflict, by stopping the use of explosive weapons and by providing assistance to victims including affected communities. The organisation is asking the public to sign its international petition. This petition which aims to collect 1 million signatures has already exceeded 390,000 signatures. It will be handed over to the United Nations and policy makers in September 2018.


Notes
Interviews available upon request with Aleema Shivji, Executive Director of Humanity & Inclusion UK
 
Press contact
Marlene Sigonney, Humanity & Inclusion UK
Email: media.uk@hi.org
Tel: +44 (0)870 774 3737 | +44 (0)7508 810 520
 
About Humanity & Inclusion
Co-winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, Humanity & Inclusion (HI) is a charity working in situations of poverty and exclusion, conflict and disaster. We work tirelessly alongside disabled and vulnerable people to help meet their basic needs, improve their living conditions and promote respect for their dignity and fundamental rights.

For the past 30 years, HI has been campaigning against anti-personnel mines and cluster bombs, with projects ranging from bomb clearance, risk education to teach civilians about the dangers of these weapons and victim assistance. This led to the signing of the Ottawa mine ban convention (1997) and the Oslo convention on cluster munitions (2008). HI is one of six founding organisations of the International Campaign to Ban Landmines (ICBL) and co-founder of the Cluster Munition Coalition.
 
Humanity & Inclusion is the new name of Handicap International.

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