Mary Wareham: 'The best way to avoid civilian harm [from incendiary weapons] is to follow the letter of international law and not use [them] in civilian areas'

posted 21 Jun 2016, 23:01 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 21 Jun 2016, 23:05 ]
'Several major media outlets are reporting that Russia’s state-run television has broadcasted footage appearing to show Russian aircraft at its airbase in Syria equipped with “cluster bombs.” The clip was deleted from YouTube after analysts published the finding but was later restored. In fact, the footage shows incendiary weapons mounted on a Su-34 fighter-ground attack aircraft – specifically RBK-500 ZAB-2.5SM bombs – not cluster bombs. These incendiary weapons contain a substance believed to be thermite that ignites while falling, which has led witnesses of attacks to describe them as “fireballs.” The fact that this weapon ignites on release distinguishes it as an incendiary weapon rather than a cluster bomb, which contains explosive submunitions that detonate on impact. [...] Russia is one of 113 countries which have joined the Convention on Conventional Weapons (CCW) protocol prohibiting the use of air-dropped incendiary weapons in areas containing concentrations of civilians. Syria’s government has ignored calls to join the protocol and has used incendiary weapons since the end of 2012. Last November, more than a dozen states, Human Rights Watch, and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) condemned or expressed concern at civilian harm from recent use of incendiary weapons, particularly in Syria. Russia called for “faithful observation” of the law. In a recent letter to Human Rights Watch, Russia’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Sergey Lavrov acknowledged the “significant humanitarian damage” caused by incendiary weapons in Syria, which he blamed on their “improper use.” The best way to avoid civilian harm from such “improper use” is to follow the letter of international law and not use incendiary weapons in civilian areas.'

- Mary Wareham, Advocacy Director, Arms Division, Human Rights Watch

Photo: Human Rights Watch

Mary Wareham, 'Dispatches: Incendiary Weapons Pose Civilian Threat in Syria,' Human Rights Watch, 21 June 2016