On 18 November 2022, 82 countries came together in Dublin to sign the ‘Political Declaration on Strengthening the Protection of Civilians from the Humanitarian Consequences Arising from the Use of Explosive Weapons in Populated Areas.’ This marks a major milestone in the prolonged efforts to protect civilians and civilian objects from harm, and it could not be more timely.
Of particular note, of the the 82 signatories to the Declaration, 15 have been recorded by AOAV as the reported perpetrators of explosive violence in the last decade. 11 of these nations were behind civilian harm and ten were behind explosive weapon use in populated areas that, since 2010, harmed civilians.
Overall, 86% of the 3,306 recorded civilian casualties from explosive violence perpetrated by those 15 signatories to the Political Declaration occurred in populated areas.
As such, these countries’ willingness to sign the political declaration to strengthen the protection of civilians from such harm is a welcome step, to be applauded.
The total toll of civilian casualties of explosive weapon use by signatories to the Political Declaration, recorded between October 2010 and October 2022, is 3,306. Turkey is the reported perpetrator in the case of 58% (1,920) of those civilian casualties, and the US of 31% (1,036). Other signatories that have perpetrated civilian harm in that time are Kenya (198 civilian casualties), France (62), Canada (30), the UK (21), Colombia (14), the Philippines (14), Togo (9), Australia (1), and Morocco (1).
Of those countries, Morocco is the only one who is not a reported perpetrator of explosive violence in populated areas. 57% of incidents in which Turkey was reported as the perpetrator of explosive violence occurred in populated areas, as did 87% of civilian casualties of Turkish explosive weapon use. Of the 661 incidents in which the US was the reported perpetrator, 21% took place in populated areas, as did 81% of civilian casualties of US explosive weapons.
A coalition of French, UK, and US forces has also caused 33 civilian casualties in that time, all of which occurred in populated areas; AOAV recorded 5,329 civilian casualties of US-led coalitions, 92% (4,892) of which happened in populated areas.
However, the absence of certain countries from the list of signatories speaks volumes. Israel, Russia, Saudi Arabia, and Syria all declined to sign.
Between October 2010 and October 2022, AOAV recorded 376 incidents of intentional explosive weapon use by Israel, and 3,254 total casualties. 2,104 of those casualties, or 65%, were civilians. Of the recorded incidents, 217, or 58%, took place in populated areas, where 2,042 casualties were recorded, of which 94% (1,915) were civilians. 91% of civilian casualties of Russian explosive violence took place in populated areas.
Within the same time-frame, Russia has been the reported perpetrator in the case of 1,781 incidents of explosive weapon use, as reported in English language media. 87% (1,541) of these were perpetrated in populated areas. Civilians accounted for 79% (12,125) of all recorded casualties of Russian explosive violence, and 93% (11,321) of civilian casualties occurred in populated areas. When Russia used explosive weapons in these locations, 98% of the resulting casualties were civilians.
AOAV has recorded 99 incidents of explosive violence by Saudi Arabia between October 2010 and October 2022. 71% (71) of those incidents took place in populated areas. Of the total 1,306 recorded casualties of Saudi explosive weapon use, 69% (905) were civilians, and 93% of those civilian casualties were perpetrated in populated areas. When Saudi Arabia used explosive weapons in these locations, 98% of resulting casualties were civilians.
Syria was the reported perpetrator of 2,134 incidents of explosive weapon use in that time, 82% (1,741) of which were carried out in populated areas. 93% (25,207) of casualties of Syrian explosive violence were civilians, and 94% of those civilian casualties occurred in populated areas. When Syria used explosive weapons in these locations, 97% of the resulting casualties were civilians.
Failing to sign the Political Declaration is a declaration in and of itself. The trail of civilian casualties of some countries which have not signed the Declaration indicates that their militaries still fail to prioritise civilian protection, a stance which seems to have been legitimised by their governments.
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