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Families trapped under rubble, children maimed by bombs, hospitals destroyed by air strikes...the tragedy happening in war torn Aleppo right now highlights the devastating impact of explosive weapons in populated areas. Handicap International, known for its international campaigns that led to the treaties banning landmines and cluster munitions, has launched a new global campaign and petition calling on states to stop the bombing of civilians.
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 recent and ongoing armed conflicts, explosive weapons have killed and maimed thousands of civilians, in countries including Syria and Yemen. This unacceptable practice is a serious violation of IHL.
“With war comes responsibility. There are international rules that must be respected – all states have a responsibility to ensure international humanitarian law is upheld and enforced,” says Aleema Shivji, Executive Director of Handicap International UK. “The international community must ensure protection and life-saving assistance for all victims of explosive weapons, including those from Syria, in all areas impacted by these weapons.”
According to Handicap International’s report ‘Syria, a mutilated future’, people surviving explosive attacks face major trauma with potential long-term impact on their lives, with 47% of people injured by explosive weapons having complex fractures and 15% undergoing amputations. The threat to civilians does not stop at the end of a conflict - explosive remnants of war can stay active for months, even years, remaining a danger to local communities.
To address these issues, Handicap International is launching the ‘Stop Bombing Civilians!’ campaign, calling on states to sign a political declaration to bring an end to the use of explosive weapons with wide-area effects in populated areas, and to recognise the suffering of civilians.
“We have seen, in the past, with our actions to ban the use of landmines and cluster munitions, that if citizens raise their voices against injustices and atrocities, they can have an extraordinary impact on the lives of millions of people all over the world. We need the same global outcry against the use of explosive weapons. No civilian, no young child should suffer and die because of these weapons.” says Aleema Shivji.
Testimony - Ahmad, 7, Syria : Four years ago, Ahmad was outside playing when a bomb landed behind him. There were no hospitals nearby so, to save his life, a rough amputation of both his legs below the knee was done on the spot. His family fled to Lebanon where Handicap International has been caring for Ahmad, providing him with crutches, a wheelchair, and a toilet chair. Lotfi, a physiotherapist, is also visiting him every week to do rehabilitation sessions. Ahmad dreams of being able to help other people who have injured their legs: “I’m studying to be an orthopedic surgeon.”
- The report ‘Syria, a mutilated Future’ is available here
- The petition can be signed at stop-bombing-civilians.org along with more information about the campaign.
- Pictures and full case study of Ahmad available upon request.
- Aleema Shivji, Executive Director of Handicap International UK, is available for interviews.
About Handicap International: Co-winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, Handicap International 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. After a 30-year campaign against anti-personnel landmines and cluster munitions which led to the 1997 Mine Ban Treaty and the 2008 Convention on Cluster Munitions, Handicap International is now taking action to stop the use of explosive weapons in populated areas. Handicap International is a founding member of the International Campaign to Ban Landmines, the Cluster Munition Coalition and the International Network on Explosive Weapons.