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Used on a massive scale in urban areas during recent armed conflicts, explosive weapons have killed and maimed thousands of civilians in countries including Syria, Iraq, Yemen, and Afghanistan.

The victims of the bomb attacks, civilians are forced to flee their home countries and head for refugee camps in neighbouring countries, or the coast of Europe.

After a 30-year campaign against anti-personnel landmines and cluster munitions which led to the Ottawa Mine Ban Convention (1997) and the Oslo Convention on Cluster Munitions (2008), Handicap International is now taking action to stop the use of explosive weapons in populated areas.

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What is an explosive weapon?

Anti-personnel landmines, cluster bombs, rockets, mortars, shells, aerial bombs and improvised explosive devices are all weapons with projectile charges.

Animated GIF coming from a Channel 4 video shot in February 2016 in Aleppo, Syria. It shows a cluster bomb exploding in a populated area.

The devastating effect of cluster munitions in Aleppo, Syria, 2016. Watch the full video on Channel 4

They pose a significant and unacceptable threat to civilians due to their wide impact area, inaccurate delivery system and multiple munitions.

When these weapons do not explode on impact they become explosive remnants of war and pose a threat long after a conflict has ended.

Use against civilians
banned

International humanitarian law (IHL) bans parties to a conflict from targeting civilians and civilian buildings.

Any attack must respect the distinction between civilians and combatants.

However, in current conflicts, cities and populated areas are regularly bombed by belligerents. This unacceptable practice kills and maims large numbers of civilians and is a serious violation of IHL.

Where have explosive weapons been used?

In 2014, the NGO Human Rights Watch documented the use of explosive weapons in populated areas in 12 countries and territories: Syria, Iraq, Israel/Gaza, Ukraine, Libya, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Sudan, Nigeria, Somalia, Thailand and Colombia.

Since 2016, Syria, Iraq, Yemen, and Gaza have been particularly affected by these weapons.

Syria. Kobanî, a destroyed city. 2015.
© Ph. Houliat / Handicap International

Explosive remnants of war.
Syria. Kobanî. 2015.
© Ph. Houliat / Handicap International

Destruction in Gaza. Palestine. 2015.
© T. Shelton / Handicap International

Destruction in Gaza. Palestine. 2015.
© T. Shelton / Handicap International

Disastrous impact on civilians

In 2016, every day

90

civilians were killed or injured by an explosive weapon.

More than

45000

people were killed or injured in one year,
of whom

92%

were civilians, when these weapons were used
in populated areas.

Explosive weapons kill and cause serious injuries (e.g. burns, amputations, complex fractures), leading to disabilities and long-term psychological trauma.

Civilians are forced to flee in order to escape the bombing or artillery fire and have to leave their homes  and possessions behind.

Explosive weapons destroy key infrastructure, such as homes, schools and hospitals.

Once a conflict ends, the legacy of explosive weapons makes it dangerous for the local population to return. Civilians who return home are exposed to the danger of weapons that did not explode on impact, called “explosive remnants of war”.

Seventy countries are currently contaminated by explosive remnants of war, which can remain active for many decades after the end of a conflict. They pose a barrier to reconstruction, and make it difficult to access fields or services, trapping countries in poverty.

Civilians continue to be killed and injured by explosive remnants of war left behind after the end of hostilities. Their presence makes even a short journey dangerous. They hinder reconstruction and paralyse the movement of a whole population. It is vital to inform people about the risks and to teach them how to respond appropriately in order to save lives.

Fanny Mraz, Head of Handicap International’s mission in Iraq

Gaza Strip. Palestine. 2015.
© T. Shelton / Handicap International

Civilians in danger

Meet Abdul, Rarad, Sami and Amal. They were at home, in the street or visiting friends when they were seriously injured in bomb attacks. Some have lost one or more relatives. Each had to flee their country of origin and leave behind their home, work, family and friends. Like them, many civilians are exposed to the danger of bombs and explosive remnants of war and are forced to escape. Civilians must be protected!
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SYRIA

Abdul

10

After suffering serious injuries, Abdul needed several operations to save his right leg, which was immobilised for four months. He will need a lot of physiotherapy and help from an occupational therapist to avoid developing hip, ankle and back complications. The close relationship between Abdul and Handicap International’s team help him to bear the pain and keep on smiling as he does his exercises.

Photos : © B. Blondel / Handicap International

Due to their blast and fragmentation effect, explosive weapons kill or cause complex injuries. Their widespread use, combined with the lack of appropriate surgical care in Syria, has a devastating impact on people’s lives. If injuries are not correctly treated, patients may never fully recover and develop permanent injuries.

Luc Lamprière, Handicap International’s regional coordinator, Syria Crisis

SYRIA

Rarad

10

Rarad’s home was bombed in 2013. She was so badly injured her leg had to be amputated. She will need several operations before her stump is ready to be fitted with an artificial limb. Determined to walk again, Rarad accepts each difficult stage of her recovery with courage. She can now play with other girls again in the camp where she has taken refuge with her family.

Photos : © B. Blondel / Handicap International

SYRIA | LEBANON

Sami

35

Sami had his right leg amputated after being seriously injured in a bomb attack in 2012. Since then, he has been cared for by Handicap International. He has been given an artificial leg and continues to do his muscle strengthening and balance exercises. He walks several kilometres a day with his neighbour, in addition to his physiotherapy sessions. Sami is determined to regain his independence so he can meet the needs of his wife and children.

Photos : © F. Buyckx / Handicap International

SYRIA | JORDAN

Amal

26

Amal has four children. In 2012, she was at home when her house was hit by a bomb. A wall fell on top of her, seriously injuring her spine, and she is now paraplegic. Since Amal and her husband took refuge in Lebanon, she has been cared for by Handicap International. As well as physiotherapy sessions, Amal has been given mobility aids and special equipment: a wheelchair, orthoses (leg supports), muscle-building blocks and a bed.

Photos : © S. Pierre / Handicap International

The international community
must take action

To stop explosive weapons destroying lives, Handicap International is calling on all States to:

  • publicly commit to end the use of explosive weapons with wide-area effects in populated areas;
  • fully implement the treaties banning landmines and cluster munitions without delay and encourage non-signatory States to sign them;
  • contribute to assisting the victims, clearing weapons in affected areas, and preventing further injuries and deaths.

The use of explosive weapons in populated areas is a violation of international humanitarian law. Civilians must be protected!

THE MASSACRE OF CIVILIANS CAN BE STOPPED

THE OTTAWA MINE BAN CONVENTION (1997) and THE OSLO CONVENTION ON CLUSTER MUNITIONS (2008) show that we have the power to bring
about change.

You can
make a difference

Follow our selfies campaign

Take part in our campaign on Instagram. Take a “STOP” photo and don’t forget to tag @StopBombing when you post it on your social network.

Your voice counts!

Let’s take action together to help victims of explosive weapons. Help us to stop the bombing of innocent civilians. You can make a difference!

Share your photo

Check out our Stop Bombing Civilians Instagram account displaying selfies of all the people joining our campaign.