Meeting of the States parties to the 1980 Convention on Prohibitions or Restrictions on the Use of Certain Conventional Weapons which may be Deemed to be Excessively Injurious or to Have Indiscriminate Effects
Statement by Jacques Forster, vice-president of the International Committee of the Red Cross, Geneva, 27 November 2003.
Thank you Mr. Chairman,
This has been a good two weeks for the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons. On 18 November, Norway became the twentieth State to deposit its ratification of the Amendment to Article 1 of the Convention which extends the scope of the Convention and its protocols to non-international armed conflict. As a result, the Amendment will enter into force on 18 May 2004. The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) welcomes the rapid entry into force of this Amendment which is an important extension of international humanitarian law ensuring that the protections of the Convention apply to the many non international armed conflicts which are so prevalent today. We urge all States that have not yet done so to become parties to this landmark amendment.
In addition, the successful conclusion of negotiations on a new protocol on explosive remnants of war will extend the protections of this Convention into the post-conflict period where there is no justification for the ongoing loss of civilian lives. The ICRC is grateful for the seriousness with which States Parties have taken its testimony, and that of other humanitarian organisations, about the terrible human and social costs of explosive remnants of war – costs which increase with every new conflict and every day of continued fighting. This achievement is a testimony to your leadership and the skill of the coordinators, Ambassador Chris Sanders and Minister Peter Kolarov with whom it has been a pleasure for the ICRC delegation to work.
The ICRC welcomes the new protocol on explosive remnants of war which is an important addition to the fabric of international humanitarian law. It is the first international treaty requiring the parties to an armed conflict to clear all unexploded and abandoned ordnance that threaten civilian populations once the fighting is over. Until now it has been civilians who have unjustly paid the price for the presence of these devices. 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.
Like many, we would have liked stronger wording in a number of the protocol's provisions. Nevertheless, we believe that the protocol establishes vital rules to ensure that explosive remnants of war are rapidly cleared following the end of hostilities; that information is shared with organizations engaged in clearance or risk education; and that warnings on dangers of explosive remnants of war are promptly provided to civilians in affected areas. With the faithful implementation of these rules, the risks posed by explosive remnants of war will be progressively reduced and civilian lives and limbs will be saved.
While the Protocol on Explosive Remnants of War will primarily provide relief after future conflicts, it is equally important not to forget the communities currently affected by ERW. The moral and humanitarian concerns which have motivated these efforts certainly apply to the current massive problem of ERW contamination worldwide. And the new protocol provides a clear road-map of what needs to be done. We urge all States to make a priority of mobilising the resources needed to address the existing scourge of ERW, even as you proceed with ratification of the new ERW Protocol.
The ICRC hopes that States Parties to the CCW will build upon the success of its work on explosive remnants of war to make further progress on the additional issues on its agenda. We believe that action is urgently needed on anti-vehicle mines and submunitions and expect that substantial progress can be made on both of these issues next year.
In closing, the ICRC believes that the new protocol on explosive remnants of war can make a significant contribution to minimizing civilian suffering arising in the aftermath of war. It is a testimony to the important role the CCW can play in addressing major humanitarian problems related to weapons. As we have done for other advances in international humanitarian law, the ICRC will promote the protocol and develop materials to assist States in their process of ratification and implementation. We urge all States to begin their internal process leading to adherence to the protocol as soon as possible. Only when its rules become the practice of all States and armed forces will the work of this meeting of States Parties – the work of sparing civilians from the scourge of ERW - be achieved.
Thank you Mr. Chairman.