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Explosive Remnants of War: Negotiations for a new agreement

13-12-2002 News Release

Geneva (ICRC) – The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) welcomes today's decision by governments to begin negotiations on a new international agreement to deal with the explosive remnants of war.

At a meeting of States party to the 1980 Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons, governments have decided to begin negotiations in 2003 on new rules to reduce death and injury caused by unexploded munitions that remain scattered across the landscape after an armed conflict has ended.

" Unexploded munitions cause tremendous suffering " , said Jakob Kellenberger, the ICRC President. " They kill or maim large numbers of civilians once the fighting is over. While there has been significant progress in reducing the scourge of anti-personnel landmines, the menace posed by unexploded artillery shells, mortar rounds, hand grenades, cluster-bomb submunitions and other similar objects must also be addressed. "

A study published by the ICRC in August 2000 highlighted the nature of the problem. In the year following the end of the armed conflict between NATO and the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, unexploded munitions took a heavy toll among the civilian population of Kosovo: nearly 500 people were killed or injured in encounters with these devices. About a third of those casualties accidentally triggered anti-personnel landmines, a third cluster-bomb submunitions, while a further third fell victim to other types of ordnance.

On the basis of its study and the organization's general experience working in areas affected by armed conflict, the ICRC in September 2000 proposed that a new protocol to the 1980 Convention be adopted to deal with the explosive remnants of war. It also made specific suggestions arising from its field experience during preparatory talks among governmen ts on measures to minimize the threat posed by these devices. There was, said President Kellenberger, broad agreement on measures to facilitate clearance of unexploded munitions and to warn civilians living in affected areas. " The ICRC hopes that the negotiations will reflect the urgency of the problem by creating new international law before the end of 2003. "  

Governments have also agreed to continue discussions on ways to reduce the severe impact in humanitarian terms of anti-vehicle mines. These weapons affect civilians in a range of conflicts and post-conflict situations by inflicting injury and death, impeding humanitarian aid and hindering reconstruction. In 2003, government experts will also study proposals to strengthen the rules on these devices.

 Further information:Camilla Waszink, ICRC Geneva, tel. ++41 22 79 217 32 08