Explosive Weapons in Populated Areas

The use of explosive weapons, such as bombs and artillery shells, is a feature of modern urban warfare that produces a consistent pattern of humanitarian harm.

Explosive windows shattered windows at Maryinka District Central Hospital in Krasnohorivka. © Anton Skyba for the International Human Rights Clinic at Harvard Law School and PAX / September 2016.

This pattern, which the Syrian conflict has thrown into sharp relief, is characterized by the direct injuries and deaths an attack with explosive weapons causes as well as the indirect effects that flow from civilian casualties and damage to civilian infrastructure, including displacement.

Recognizing the human suffering caused by explosive weapons and the lack of adequate international standards in this area, the International Network on Explosive Weapons (INEW), a broad coalition of non-governmental organizations, has called on states to make a political commitment to curb the use of explosive weapons in populated areas. The Clinic has been involved with this campaign since 2011 and has played a key role in efforts to bring about stronger international standards, including by producing reports that document the harm caused by explosive weapons use in populated areas, as well as guidance on the processes that could lead to a political commitment.

Expert: Bonnie Docherty

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