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Treaty on explosive remnants of war to enter into force

16-05-2006 News Release 06/46

Geneva (ICRC) – The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) welcomes the 20th ratification on May 12 of the 2003 Protocol on Explosive Remnants of War.

This ratification ensures the entry into force of the Protocol, which is the first multilateral treaty of international humanitarian law requiring parties to an armed conflict to clear all unexploded and abandoned ordnance that threatens civilians, peacekeepers and aid workers after the fighting is over. 

The Protocol was adopted in response to an ICRC initiative launched in September 2000. Concerned about the large numbers of civilian casualties claimed by unexploded artillery shells, grenades, cluster-bomb submunitions, mortars and similar ordnance, the ICRC called on the States party to the UN Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons (CCW) to draw up new rules in this area. While the international community has made great progress in reducing the suffering caused by anti-personnel mines, other forms of unexploded and abandoned ordnance continue to pose an equally grave threat to civilians. 

The Protocol was concluded by the 91 States party to the CCW, including all the major military powers. It requires parties to an armed conflict to:

  • Survey, mark and clear explosive remnants of war (ERW) in areas under their control after a conflict.

  • Provide technical, material and financial assistance for the removal of ERW left by their armed forces in areas not under their control.

  • Record information on explosive ordnance used or abandoned by their armed forces and share that information with organizations involved in clearance activities. 

  • Take all feasible precautions to protect civilians from the effects of ERW, including marking and fencing off dangerous areas and warning them of the risks.

Welcoming the new treaty in 2003, ICRC Vice-President Jacques Forster said: " With the adoption of this Protocol, States have recognized that parties to a conflict have a responsibility to clear explosive remnants of war or to assist in such clearance so as to eradicate the threat they pose to civilians. It is no longer permissible for parties to simply walk away from the post-conflict consequences of the munitions they have used. "

Reiterating this position, the ICRC calls on all States that have not yet ratified this important treaty to do so urgently.

 For further information, please contact:  

 Camilla Waszink, ICRC Geneva, tel. ++41 22 730 26 42 or (mobile) ++41 76 344 80 21  

 Lou Maresca, ICRC Geneva, tel. ++41 22 7302694