November 6, 2015

Clinic and HRW Urge Strengthening of International Law Governing Incendiary Weapons

PRESS RELEASE

 

Curb Use of Incendiary Weapons
Seize Diplomatic Opening to Strengthen International Law

 

(Washington, DC, November 5, 2015) – Countries should take concrete steps to strengthen international law governing incendiary weapons, the International Human Rights Clinic at Harvard Law School said in a joint report released today, ahead of a diplomatic meeting devoted to incendiary and other weapons that will be held in Geneva November 9-13, 2015.

The need is urgent in light of new reported uses of incendiary weapons, which cause excruciatingly painful burns that are difficult to treat and can lead to long-term psychological harm and severe disfigurement.

The joint report with Human Rights Watch, “From Condemnation to Concrete Action” provides a five-year review of developments related to incendiary weapons. It lays out evidence of recent use, including in Syria and Ukraine, as well as allegations of use in Libya and Yemen in 2015.  It also examines the evolution of countries’ policies and positions regarding the use of incendiary weapons.

“Countries have been voicing concerns and condemning use of incendiary weapons for five years, but it is time for more tangible progress,” said Bonnie Docherty, senior clinical instructor with the Clinic and senior arms researcher at Human Rights Watch. “Countries should seize the opportunities at upcoming diplomatic meetings to strengthen the law curbing the use of these exceptionally cruel weapons.”

A video posted to YouTube by activists from Quseir, Syria shows ZAB 2.5 incendiary submunitions burning in the playground of the Ghaleb Radi school following an airstrike on December 3, 2012. © 2012 Private

A video posted to YouTube by activists from Quseir, Syria shows ZAB 2.5 incendiary submunitions burning in the playground of the Ghaleb Radi school following an airstrike on December 3, 2012. © 2012 Private

A protocol to the Convention on Conventional Weapons, an international treaty, regulates the use of incendiary weapons. But it has significant loopholes that have undermined its effectiveness and failed to deter ongoing use, the report said.

At their annual meeting in Geneva next week, countries that are party to that treaty should agree to initiate discussions to review current law. Such discussions would lay the groundwork for efforts to amend the law at the 2016 review conference, a major diplomatic gathering held every five years.

The Clinic will present its findings at a side event at United Nations in Geneva 2 to 3 p.m., November 9, in Conference Room XI.

“From Condemnation to Concrete Action” is available at:
https://www.hrw.org/node/283031/

For more Human Rights Watch publications on incendiary weapons, please visit:
http://www.hrw.org/topic/arms/incendiary-weapons

For more information, please contact:
In Boston, Bonnie Docherty (English): +1-617-669-1636 (mobile); or bdocherty@law.harvard.edu

 NOTE: Sarah Abraham, JD ’17, Lauren Blodgett, JD ’16, Danae Paterson, JD ’16, contributed research to the report.

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