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Bombing in populated areas, a disaster for civilians

Explosive weapons
International

The United Nations Security Council discusses the protection of civilians in armed conflict this week. A HI delegation is at the United Nations headquarters to convince States to commit themselves against bombing in populated areas. At the head of this delegation, Arms Advocacy Manager, Alma Al Osta, explains HI's actions: 

On the 5th and 6th of December 2018, HI co-organised a regional conference in Santiago, the capital of Chile, on protecting civilians from bombing.

On the 5th and 6th of December 2018, HI co-organised a regional conference in Santiago, the capital of Chile, on protecting civilians from bombing. | © HI

HI talks with States 

The HI delegation at UN headquarters is planning several meetings with state delegations to convince them to commit themselves against bombing in populated areas. A few days ago, we addressed them by letter to encourage them to refer to bombing in populated areas as a major problem for the protection of civilians in armed conflict when they speak at the Security Council debate.

We also asked them to support the political process initiated by Austria, Ireland and several States in favour of an international political declaration against explosive weapons in populated areas.  HI has been working for years with States and other NGOs on such a political declaration.  

HI reports on civilians suffering 

At a breakout conference of the Security Council debate on 23rd May, we will report on what we observe in the field: the suffering of civilians cause by bombings in urban areas: disabling injuries, psychological trauma, destruction of vital civilian infrastructure including hospitals and schools, population displacement, contamination by explosive remnants...

Bombings in populated areas have disastrous and long-term consequences for civilians; consequences that HI confronts daily in places like Syria, Libya and Yemen. 

Bombings in populated areas: 92% of victims are civilians

Bombing in populated areas has become a common practice in armed conflicts. Civilians are the main victims. According to Action on Armed Violence (AOAV), more than 42,000 people were killed or injured by explosive weapons of all kinds - bombs, mortars, rockets, etc. - in 2017.

When explosive weapons are used in populated areas, 92% of the victims are civilians. 

What is the protection of civilians? 

During armed conflict, those who do not take part in the fighting must not be attacked. They must be spared and protected. The concept of "protection of civilians" thus encompasses the rules of international humanitarian law to protect all those - men, women, children - who do not take part in fighting. 

20 years since the first UN resolution on the protection of civilians

Twenty years ago, in 1999, the United Nations Security Council noted that civilians had become the main victims of armed conflict and adopted its first resolution on the protection of civilians (Resolution 1265): "Civilians constitute the vast majority of victims of armed conflict and [...] combatants and other armed elements are increasingly targeting them". The same year, the Security Council decided on the first peace keeping mission dedicated to the protection of civilians (Sierra Leone).

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