A frightening increase in the number of victims of explosive weapons
On the occasion of the International Day for Mine Awareness, HI is alarmed by the frightening increase in the number of civilian victims of explosive weapons : 32,008 civilians were killed or injured by explosive weapons in 2016 (out of a total of 45,624 victims), according to Action on Armed Violence (AOAV). The toll looks even heavier for 2017, as civilians account for 90% of the victims of explosive weapons when they are used in populated areas. Landmine Monitor has recorded a dramatic increase in casualties of mine and explosive remnants over the past three years. Syria, Afghanistan, Libya, Ukraine and Yemen are among the main countries affected.
Demining operation in Iraq | (c) E. Fourt/HI
The Syrian conflict is particularly marked by the massive and repeated use of explosive weapons. According to a census by the International NGO Safety Organisation (INSO), 33,394 attacks involving explosive weapons took place in Syria in 2017 (70% of the incidents recorded).
The use of explosive weapons in populated areas is massive and continuous. This practice, which mostly kills and injures civilians, leaves many large areas contaminated by explosive remnants of war after the fighting: For example, Eastern Ghouta is heavily contaminated as a result of the air strikes launched on the 18th of February 2018, which killed more than 1,100 people. During the offensive in Raqqa in 2017, massive air strikes and artillery fire devastated the town and densely contaminated it with explosive remnants. It will take years to clear these areas.
"The presence of explosive remnants of war or improvised mines prevents people from returning to their homes once the attack or conflict is over," HI Head of Mine Action, Thomas Hugonnier. “In Iraq, in Syria, this pollution has reached an unprecedented level which will require mine clearance operations for many years. It also makes risk education sessions essential to teach the population to have the right reflexes when faced with an explosive remnant and thus to protect themselves against the risks of accidents.”
In Iraq, Syria, Ukraine, etc., bombings and shelling have left explosive remnants of war that permanently contaminate large areas long after fighting has stopped. In neighbourhoods or villages that have been bombed, the presence of these explosive remnants of war threatens the lives of civilians and makes it impossible to return to normal social and economic life.
Published last November, Landmine Monitor's annual report documents the staggering increase in the number of victims from mine and explosive remnants of war in 2016. The report shows that the number of new victims of industrial or artisanal mines and explosive remnants of war has increased 2.5-fold in three years, from 3,450 in 2013 to 8,605 in 2016.
This is the heaviest toll recorded by the Observatory since the publication of its first annual report in 2000 (9,228 victims recorded in 1999). The number of new victims increases for the third consecutive year after 15 years of almost continuous decline.
Stop bombing civilians
HI is running an international campaign to say "stop bombing civilians". The association aims to collect 1 million signatures to be submitted to political decision-makers in September 2018. HI works within the International Network on Explosive Weapons (INEW) coalition to encourage states to commit to ending the use of explosive weapons in populated areas.