Explosive weapons in populated areas

A woman walks near a house in the city of Homs A woman walks near a house in the city of Homs © Photo by bwb-studio on iStock

What are explosive weapons in populated areas?

Explosive weapons in populated areas (EWIPA) work through the detonation of an explosive substance that creates blast and fragmentation effects. These include a range of surface-launched and air-dropped weapons such as rockets, mortars, artillery projectiles and grenades as well as homemade bombs and including airstrikes.  

The terms “populated areas”, indicate a city, town, village or other areas with a high concentration of civilians or civilian objects.


How are they affecting civilians?

When explosive weapons are used in populated areas, the direct effect is the injuring and killing of tens of thousands of people, among which more than 90% is always civilian. Also, long-term impacts on mental well-being are other common consequences. Among the indirect effects, we can find damages to homes and infrastructures preventing people from having access to healthcare, education, water and electricity distribution, and other public services, resulting in the displacement of civilians, which is often long-lasting. Indeed, damages to critical infrastructure such as sewerage systems can lead to the spread of diseases and further deaths. Besides, explosive weapons leave explosive remnants of war long after hostilities have ended, possibly killing or injuring civilians until they are removed. 


What is the international community doing about it?

The increasing use of explosive weapons in urban areas raises international concerns. More than 80 states have expressed their will to enhance the protection of civilians in warfare. Nevertheless, to date, there is no international instrument regulating the use of such weapons. The International Network on Explosive Weapons urged countries to end the use of EWIPA and to provide assistance to survivors. In 2019, Austria organized the Vienna conference on protecting civilians in urban warfare. Ireland announced a series of consultations to advance work toward a political declaration against the use of EWIPA and released the latest draft of the declaration in January 2021.









Author: Eleonora Gonnelli

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