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First conference on the use of explosive weapons in populated areas: the mass bombing of civilians must end.

Explosive weapons

For the first time, more than twenty States and several international organisations are gathering in Vienna, Austria, on 21 and 22 September 2015, to discuss a political solution aimed at ending the use of explosive weapons in populated areas. Handicap International will make the voice of survivors heard during the conference to ensure States take action against this unacceptable practice.

Destruction in the city of Kobani, Syria.

Destruction in the city of Kobano, Syria. | © P. Houliat / Handicap International

“This is the first time States have met to propose a diplomatic process in response to the use of explosive weapons in populated areas,” explains Anne Héry, Head of Advocacy at Handicap International. “And it’s also the first time that survivors can make their voices heard by the international community. The real impact of these weapons on civilians will be central to the diplomats’ discussions,” adds Anne Héry. “States must bring an end to this intolerable practice. They also need to advance the rights and meet the needs of survivors and their families, who are too often left to their own devices.”

Giving a voice to survivors

Adnan, who was injured by a shell burst in 1995 during the conflict in ex-Yugoslavia, and Oussama, the victim of a bombardment during the conflict in Syria in 2012, have been invited to Vienna by Handicap International. They will provide testimony on their trauma, disabilities, and the obstacles they have faced in trying to regain their place in society. They will describe the horrific impact of the use of explosive weapons in populated areas.

Explosive weapons in populated areas

Sadly, the use of explosive weapons in populated areas is common practice in current conflicts in Syria, Ukraine, Yemen and other countries. Handicap International, which is currently working in a number of different situations where people have been or are still affected by these weapons, recently documented the impact of these weapons in Syria in two reports .

Explosive weapons used in populated areas kill civilians and cause suffering and serious injuries (burns, open wounds, fractures, etc.). They also cause lasting disabilities and psychological trauma. This practice results in forced population displacement, and the destruction of vital infrastructures such as homes, schools and hospitals.

Moreover, during an attack, a number of these weapons do not explode on impact, posing a permanent threat to civilians long after the conflict is over. The presence of explosive remnants of war makes it dangerous for people to return to their homes once an attack is over or the conflict has ended.

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