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War in Nagorno-Karabakh: torrent of bombs in populated areas must stop

Press release | London, 9th October 2020, 9:30 GMT

Humanity & Inclusion expresses its deep concern about reported civilian suffering in the conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh. As the violence rapidly escalates, both sides are using heavy explosive weapons —including banned cluster munitions— in populated areas, putting the lives of civilians in grave danger. Humanity & Inclusion supports the international call for a ceasefire in Nagorno-Karabakh and call on states to develop a strong international agreement against bombing in populated areas in 2021.

Since September 27th, both parties to the conflict have carried out direct attacks on targets in urban areas. A rise in civilian casualties has been inevitable: Azeri artillery fell on Stepanakert, Nagorno-Karabakh's capital. In response, Armenian artillery shelled Ganja, Azerbaijan's second largest city, home to 330,000 residents. Civilian casualties have been reported in high numbers in both Stepanakert and Ganja. Vital civilian infrastructure has also been destroyed and hundreds of families have fled.

“What we observe is unfortunately a common and devastating scenario in many escalating conflicts : use of heavy bombing in populated areas, which kills and injures civilians, destroys civilian infrastructure and forces families to abandon all their belonging and to flee to safer areas. We fear that if the violence brings the region closer to all-out war, there will be long-term humanitarian consequences: permanent displaced families; contamination of large areas by explosive remnants; complex injuries and long-term psychological trauma and a sharp reduction of vital services – primarily schools and health centres- as establishments will be destroyed or become inaccessible.”

explains Emmanuel Sauvage, Humanity & Inclusion Armed Violence Reduction Director.

Working toward an international agreement against bombing in urban areas

In October 2019, a diplomatic process started to reach a political declaration against the use of explosive weapons in populated areas started. So far, more than 70 States have been involved in the draft of the international political declaration against the use of explosive weapons in populated areas.

 “Populated areas are now targeted by heavy weapons in Nagorno-Karabakh and around. Many heavy explosive weapons used in urban warfare today are originally designed for open battlefields: They are inaccurate weapons putting entire neighbourhoods at risk, multiple rocket systems simultaneously firing over a wide-area, munitions producing large blasts and fragmentation effects... This practice has major humanitarian consequences and it must be stopped. We call on all States to develop a strong international agreement with clear and strong commitments against the use of heavy bombs in towns, cities and other areas that are populated by civilians. This agreement must have concrete effects on the ground by better protecting civilians.”

says Aleema Shivji, Executive Director of Humanity & Inclusion UK.

The draft of the international agreement, a political declaration, is at its final negotiation stage between states, UN agencies, international organisations and civil society.  Then, the international political declaration will be proposed to States for endorsement during a conference in Dublin next year.


- Interview available upon request with Humanity & Inclusion’s experts

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.

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