More than 70 pct of war casualties civilian in 2011 – report

March 27, 2012

LONDON (AlertNet) – Civilians accounted for 71 percent of people killed and injured by explosive weapons in 2011, with most of such casualties taking place in Iraq, according to a report released on Tuesday.

At least 21,499 civilians were reported killed or injured over a 12-month period in 68 countries and territories, according to data gathered from news sources on 2,522 incidents of explosive violence, the report by non-profit group Action on Armed Violence (AOAV) said.

More than 18,000 of the civilian casualties were reported in populated areas, the report said.

Of all casualties recorded in populated areas, 84 percent were civilians, according to the group, which is a member of non-governmental organisation International Network on Explosive Weapons (INEW).

Casualties recorded in the report were caused by such conventional military explosive weapons as mortars, rockets, artillery and such improvised explosive devices (IEDs) as car and suicide bombs.

More than half of all recorded civilian casualties caused by explosive devices were the result of IEDs, used mostly by non-state armed groups, it added.

“We need to see this as a moral issue and use our common sense that using these types of weapons in densely populated areas is going to be unacceptable and is going to cause unacceptable harm,” said Thomas Nash, joint coordinator of INEW and director of Article 36, a UK-based non-profit organisation working to prevent unintended, unnecessary or unacceptable harm caused by certain weapons.

“It’s got to go beyond existing international humanitarian law and look at what’s killing people and what sort of practice we need to change.”

Article 36 is urging Britain’s government to lead a discussion at the U.N. Security Council, in June, on how to protect civilians from bombing in populated areas.

Many people think that in war it’s normal for towns and cities to be bombed, Nash said in an interview with AlertNet.

But the Geneva conventions, which outline legal standards of humanitarian treatment for people in war zones, are there to help protect civilians from bombardment, he added.

Iraq, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Libya and Somalia were the top five most dangerous places in the world for explosive violence last year, incurring 71 percent of all recorded civilian casualties, the report said.

In Iraq, almost 5,700 civilians were either killed or injured by explosive weapons last year, nearly 100 each month in the capital Baghdad, indicating an “unacceptable continuing risk to the lives of civilians,” the report said.

The last convoy of U.S. soldiers pulled out of Iraq in December, after nine years of war.

But violence continues in Iraq, where on March 20, more than 40 bombs were planted in 20 towns and cities across the country.

In 2011, the use of explosive weapons by a state within its own territory among its own citizens was seen in the shelling of cities in Syria, Libya and Yemen, marking a breakdown in accountability between the state and its citizens, accompanied by a humanitarian crisis, the report said.

AOAV has been collecting data on incidents of explosive weapons use through the Explosive Violence Monitoring Project since October 2010.

(Editing by Rebekah Curtis)

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    "I am the communities editor for the Thomson Reuters Foundation in London where I blog, micro blog, write stories, make videos, audio and work on the AlertNet and TrustLaw news websites. AlertNet is a humanitarian news website covering wars, conflict, natural disasters, food and health emergencies. TrustLaw is covers good governance and women's rights. I moved to the foundation in 2010 after two years with the Reuters UK website. Find me @jmollins or +Julie Mollins."
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