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Explosive remnants of war: ICRC calls for new international agreement

11-12-2001 News Release 01/68

Geneva (ICRC) -The President of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), Mr Jakob Kellenberger, called today for improved rules to address the realities of modern warfare. In a statement made at the second Review Conference of the 1980 Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons (CCW) in Geneva, the ICRC President urged States to commit themselves to reducing the terrible toll in human lives taken by " explosive remnants of war " .

" Nearly every major armed conflict in modern times has left behind enormous amounts of unexploded artillery shells, mortars, hand grenades, landmines, submunitions and other ordnance. All too often it is civilians who lose their lives or limbs by coming into contact with these devices " , said Mr Kellenberger. Vast quantities of unexploded munitions can remain even after short-lived conflicts, and often take years or even decades to clear. In Kosovo, ICRC casualty data from the post-conflict period show that cluster-bomb submunitions claimed five times as many victims among children under 14 as anti-personnel landmines.

" It is unacceptable that those who have endured the horrors of war must subsequently risk becoming war victims during times of peace " , said the ICRC President, who stressed that, unlike many other problems of humanitarian concern, incidents involving explosive remnants of war are predictable and can largely be prevented. The ICRC has therefore proposed that governments negotiate a new protocol   to the CCW aimed at eliminating explosive remnants of war, outlining clearance responsi bilities and ensuring rapid provision of the technical information needed for clearance and for promotion of community awareness.

Mr Kellenberger also urged States to extend the scope of application of the Convention and its Protocols to non-international armed conflict. Only one of the CCW's four Protocols applies to internal armed conflict, although a large proportion of today's conflicts take place within State borders. To date, 88 States have ratified the CCW.