On 1st December 2017, Geneva Call released a report entitled “Six armed non-State actors share their policies and practice with regards to protecting civilians from explosive weapons.” This paper identifies some of the initial steps that States, UN agencies and I/NGOs can take to address the challenge of reducing civilian casualties as a result of the use of explosive weapons by armed non-State actors (ANSAs). In 2016, 60 different ANSAs used explosive weapons according to a study led by Action on Armed Violence.
The steps were drawn from interviews made with leaders and authorized spokespersons from six ANSAs on their policies and practices with regards to protecting civilians from explosive devices, including improvised explosive devices. All of the ANSAs interviewed are involved in a dialogue with Geneva Call to enhance the protection of civilians in situations of armed violence and conflict.
Whereas some ANSA representatives admitted errors and collateral damage, they all said that they felt responsible for any civilian casualties that they may have caused. It also appeared that their practices were guided by cultural, religious and/or humanitarian values. This shows the need to build advocacy strategies that consider ANSAs’ values and find the best leverage with which to make them change their practices.
Although those interviewed did not represent all the ANSAs currently active, their responses shed some light on the perspectives of some of them. Further research will be necessary to verify whether their observations can be applied to a broader spectrum of groups.
The use of explosive weapons, including by ANSAs, and the resulting civilian casualties, specifically when used in populated areas, is of increasing concern to the international community; it is a difficult situation to grapple with.
Since its creation in 2000, Geneva Call has been engaging ANSAs on the use of explosive weapons: initially in relation to the anti-personnel landmine ban and later within the context of promoting adherence to international humanitarian norms more broadly.
Click here to read the study.