The third and final round of negotiations aimed at banning the use of high-impact explosive weapons in cities will begin Wednesday, April 6th in Geneva. And the “It’s urgent” Handicap International’s advocacy officer, Baptiste Chapuis, said on franceinfo. According to the NGO, 90% of the victims of these weapons are civilians. The International Criminal Court (ICC) chief prosecutor on Friday urged parties to the conflict in Ukraine not to use heavy, high-explosive weapons in populated areas as the Russian military continues its bombardment of homes and civilian infrastructure.
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franceinfo: Why negotiate to ban these explosive weapons with a wide impact?
Baptist Chabus: It’s urgent. This urgency is manifested in the 90% of civilian casualties when explosive weapons known as wide-area weapons are used in populated areas. We are talking about conventional weapons, weapons permitted by international law. They are activated by detonating a high explosive and will create a large blast or fragmentation effect, whether it is air bombs, artillery shells, mortars, rockets or missile warheads. When these weapons are used in urban areas, as we currently see in Ukraine, they have a so-called wide scope of influence, that is, they will almost systematically bypass their military objectives and cause significant collateral damage.
Have civilians become the first victims of war?
The proportion of civilian casualties in armed conflicts has gradually evolved over the past century. A century ago, 15% of the victims of armed conflicts were civilians. That number rose to 50% at the end of World War II, and in the 10 years that we’ve been collecting data, on average nine out of ten casualties, or 90% of casualties are civilians when explosive weapons are used in populated areas, i.e. in Cities where people like you live on a daily basis. The urbanization of conflicts is not a new phenomenon, it is clear that we think of Dresden, Stalingrad, and Le Havre during World War II. But today when we see images of Mariupol in Ukraine, or Sanaa in Yemen, or Aleppo in Syria, or Mosul in Iraq, what challenges us is the intensification of the phenomenon. The idea of collateral damage has become an inappropriate one because of this 90% figure.
“The weapons we are talking about were designed and built for open battlefields and today they find themselves in the midst of hospitals, schools and vital infrastructure that sustains community life.”Baptiste Chapuis, Disability International Advocacy Officer
These are all the reasons why we are fighting today to win this international agreement so that it does not permanently ban, but radically regulate the use of heavier and more accurate explosive weapons in populated areas. These weapons have no place in our cities.
Does this agreement have a chance of success?
Of course she has a chance of success! for many reasons. This agreement seeks to profoundly change military policies and practices by strengthening the application of the Geneva Conventions and excluding heavier and more accurate weapons from the urban field. 70 to 80 countries have been discussing this text for several years. These are long-term campaigns that seek to address the structural causes of current problems. We will not convince the worst countries and the worst armed groups by tomorrow, but I will give you an example that gives us hope and is drawn from our past experience: the Ottawa treaty against anti-personnel mines, these weapons that were used by all the countries of the world, today, signed by 80% of the countries of the world. There have been ten times fewer landmine casualties in 15 years, and even states and rebel groups such as the United States—which has not yet signed the text—or the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, have begun this essential work of demining and destroying them. stocks. With the fight we’re in today, we seek to repeat the same logic. Yesterday, we condemned the use of antipersonnel mines or even cluster bombs and made them unacceptable. Today, we have to stigmatize the practice of urban bombing and make it all practice of the past and not the present.
What is France’s position on this?
France’s position has been a bit like ‘at the same time’ for several years. In his speech on March 22 at the Humanitarian Summit, Emmanuel Macron for the first time denounced “The use of explosive weapons in densely populated areas of Ukraine”. We call on France to put the words into action by backing a strong text and in particular by mobilizing the position of the International Committee of the Red Cross and the Secretary-General of the United Nations who strongly call on states to avoid any use of these heavier and more accurate weapons in populated areas. France, for several years, became one of the most active countries in these negotiations. Constructive proposals were made to improve the existing framework, doctrine, rules of engagement, targeting procedures, and troop training.
“However, France, in a very incomprehensible and resolute manner, opposes any use aimed at extreme control, and avoids the use of these heavy and more accurate explosive weapons.”Baptist Chapuis
It is hoped that President Emmanuel Macron’s speech today will lead to a change in the French position because France is at the head of this process.