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107 countries condemn the use of explosive weapons

UN General Assembly hall

107 countries strongly condemned “the continued escalation in the use by the Syrian authorities of heavy weapons” / Image: Patrick Gruban

A resolution calling for an end to the use of explosive weapons in Syria was adopted this week by the United Nations General Assembly. States from around the world came together to speak out against the use of explosive weapons in Syria, including many who had not previously publicly voiced such concerns about such weapon use.

“At least 80,000 have perished since the start of the hostilities, with most of those casualties believed to be civilians,” the President of the General Assembly warned states as they met before the vote.[1] Many of that number were killed as a result of artillery, mortars, rockets, aerial bombs, and IEDs that have ripped apart densely-populated towns up and down Syria.

The resolution repeatedly stressed the disastrous humanitarian impact of these heavy weapons in Syria, and explicitly linked the continued use of explosive weapons with the systematic gross violations and abuses of the human rights of Syrian civilians.

In the resolution, 107 countries strongly condemned “the continued escalation in the use by the Syrian authorities of heavy weapons, including indiscriminate shelling from tanks and aircraft, and the use of ballistic missiles and other indiscriminate weapons against population centres, as well as the use of cluster munitions.[2]

The list of states that voted for the Resolution includes countries recently affected by explosive violence like Afghanistan, Colombia, Cote D’Ivoire, Libya, and Pakistan, as well as states that have themselves used explosive weapons, including France, Israel, Turkey and the UK.

By supporting this resolution, these countries have acknowledged the harm that explosive weapons cause when used in populated areas, which includes many violations of human rights including death, injury, and displacement.

Wednesday’s developments at the UN send a strong signal that the use of explosive weapons with wide-area effects, like heavy aerial bombs and artillery shells, should not be tolerated in populated areas.

An overwhelming number of states also expressed grave concern with the use of cluster munitions in Syria, including a number of states who have not yet joined the Convention on Cluster Munitions, the international treaty banning their use.

The majority of countries are now saying clearly that the explosive weapons used in Syria, and the manner of their use, is unacceptable. Their message may not be heard in Syria, where the conflict grows more bitter and savage with each passing day. But it is a welcome development to see producers, users, and affected countries alike speaking out on the side of humanitarian concerns and in favour of the inviolable human rights of civilians.

 


[1] “Syria death toll at least 80,000, says U.N. General Assembly president,” Reuters, 15 May 2013, http://in.reuters.com/article/2013/05/15/syria-crisis-un-deaths-idINDEE94E0CJ20130515 (accessed 16 May 2013).

[2] United Nations General Assembly, Draft Resolution 67/L.63, 8 May 2013, www.un.org/ga/search/view_doc.asp?symbol=A/67/L.63 (accessed 16 May 2013).

Image: Patrick Gruban