International Humanitarian Law Issues In A Potential War In Iraq
(February 20, 2003) -- This briefing paper addresses some of the key issues that may arise under international humanitarian law (IHL), also known as the law of armed conflict, with respect to the duty of all warring parties to protect civilians and other non-combatants. These include the use of human shields, the use of weapons of mass destruction, concerns about urban combat, attacks on civilian morale, attacks on dual-use facilities, targeting decisions (target identification and proportionality), the use of certain conventional weapons, the duties of an occupying power, and transparency in the conduct of military operations.
The NATO Summit and Arms Trade Controls in Central and Eastern Europe
(November 15, 2002) -- Leaders of some forty-six countries are anticipated to attend the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) summit in Prague, Czech Republic, on November 21 and 22, 2002. The trade in conventional weapons is not explicitly on the summit agenda,1 but it will be difficult for NATO to avoid addressing the subject, particularly in view of recent arms trade scandals involving Ukraine and Yugoslavia, two countries that are seeking closer ties to NATO.
Arms Trade, Human Rights, and European Union Enlargement: The Record of Candidate Countries
(October 8, 2002) -- The countries of Central and Eastern Europe, including several that are candidates for European Union (E.U.) membership, have long been a major source of weapons flows to human rights abusers, conflict regions, and clients suspected of diverting weapons to unauthorized destinations. There has been some recent progress to tighten controls, but serious problems remain.
Reforming Bulgaria's Arms Trade: An Update
(July 3, 2002) -- In the next few weeks, the Bulgarian parliament is due to enact important changes to the country's arms trade law. The legislation would amend the Law on the Control of Foreign Trade Activity in Arms and Dual-Use Goods and Technologies, which was adopted in 1995.
Recent Landmine Use By India And Pakistan
(May 2002) -- As part of the military buildup resulting from the December 13, 2001, attack on the Indian parliament, both India and Pakistan have emplaced large numbers of antipersonnel and antivehicle mines along their common border. This is one of the largest scale mine laying operations anywhere in the world since 1997 when 122 nations signed the Mine Ban Treaty (Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Antipersonnel Mines and On Their Destruction). Neither India nor Pakistan is party to that treaty, though both have stated their support for a comprehensive global ban on antipersonnel mines at some point in the future.
A Global Overview Of Explosive Submunitions (PDF, 25 pages)
Human Rights Watch Memorandum To Delegates
Prepared for the Convention on Conventional Weapons (CCW) Group of Governmental Experts on the Explosive Remnants of War (ERW) May 21-24, 2002
Antivehicle Mines with Sensitive Fuzes or Antihandling Devices
(February 25, 2002 ) -- Information in this backgrounder was originally distributed in Geneva, Switzerland on February 1, 2002 in memorandum for delegates to the fifth meeting of the Intersessional Standing Committee on the General Status and Operation of the 1997 Mine Ban Treaty. This backgrounder is a revised version of that memorandum and incorporates factual corrections and additional information received from delegates. More..
Second Review Conference of the Convention on Conventional Weapons
Human Rights Watch Statement, December 31, 2001
Types and Manufacturers of Remotely Delivered Antivehicle Mines
Human Rights Watch Fact Sheet (PDF Version - 2 pages), December 2001
Prepared for the CCW Review Conference, December 2001, Geneva, Switzerland
Memorandum for Delegates to the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons (CCW) Review Conference (PDF Version - 6 pages)
Subject: Low Metal Content Antivehicle Mines
During the last review of the 1980 Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons (CCW) a proposal was tabled that mines should meet a minimum detectability standard of a signal equivalent to eight grams of a coherent mass of iron on commonly available mine detection equipment. This requirement was adopted for antipersonnel mines in May 1996, but consensus was not reached for applying it to antivehicle mines. (Download PDF Version - 6 pages)
No Questions Asked: The Eastern Europe Arms Pipeline to Liberia
(November 15, 2001) Following the release of a new United Nations report on sanctions violations in Liberia, the U.N. Security Council is weighing what further steps, if any, to take to address the violations. The report, prepared by a five-person independent panel of experts, presents fresh evidence of violations of an arms embargo and travel and diamond bans imposed on Liberia by the Security Council.
Cluster Bombs in Afghanistan
(October 31, 2001) -- The United States-led alliance began its air campaign in Afghanistan on October 7, 2001. While the Pentagon has been reluctant to talk of specific weapons used in the bombing, U.S. military sources have told Human Rights Watch that the Air Force began dropping cluster bombs within a matter of days. During the first week of the campaign, it is believed that Air Force B-1 bombers dropped 50 CBU-87 cluster bombs in some five missions.
Military Assistance to the Afghan Opposition
(October 6, 2001) -- To respond to the attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon on September 11, 2001, the United States government has begun to put together what it calls a coalition against terrorism. As part of this approach, the United States has signalled support for the creation of a broad-based coalition to oppose the Taliban, the current rulers of most of Afghanistan. This opposition would include forces that presently constitute the United Front--also known under its former name the Northern Alliance--as well as Taliban defectors
U.N. Conference on Small Arms Trafficking - New York 9 July 2001
By Joost R. Hiltermann, Executive Director, Arms Division Human Rights Watch Delivered at the IANSA Press Conference U.N. Conference on Small Arms Trafficking
Fourth Meeting of the Intersessional Standing Committee on the General Status and Operation of the Mine Ban Treaty
Joint Operations and the Mine Ban Treaty Memorandum for Delegates, May 11, 2001 Geneva, Switzerland 11 May 2001
UN Conference on the Illicit Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons in All Its Aspects
January 8, 2001
In the struggle for human rights we are not beholden to the UN and the ways in which it works. We will not genuflect before this or that procedural requirement or bow to the lowest common denominator. At the end of July we will take a close look to see whether states are serious about tackling the issue-whether in fact the emperor is fully dressed or is going about town in the buff.
Fueling Aghanistan's War
December 15, 2000
Throughout the war, all of the major factions have been guilty of grave breaches of international humanitarian law. Their warmaking is supported and perpetuated by the involvement of Afghanistan's neighbors and other states in providing weapons, ammunition, fuel, and other logistical support.
Neglected Arms Embargo on Sierra Leone Rebels
May 15, 2000
The current crisis in Sierra Leone, in which rebels with the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) have clashed with U.N. peacekeepers and pro-government forces, suggests that the fragile peace agreed to in July 1999 is rapidly unraveling. According to numerous reports, they also have taken hundreds of hostages, fired at a crowd of protesters, resulting in several deaths, and advanced to thirty miles east of Freetown. While the RUF's intentions remain unclear, the rebel group's actions raise serious concerns that it might activate the arms supply channels it has used in the past to obtain additional weapons with which to renew a brutal war.
The U.N. Sanctions Committee on Angola: Lessons Learned?
April 18, 2000
On April 18, the United Nations Security Council will debate the U.N. Panel of Experts report on the sanctions regime against the rebels of the National Union for the Total Independence of Angola (UNITA), which was submitted to the Security Council on February 28. The Security Council is expected to issue a resolution that will shape the future of the sanctions regime in Angola.
U.S. Programs to Develop Alternatives to Antipersonnel Mines
Nearly four years ago, in May 1996, the United States began a search for alternatives to antipersonnel landmines so that the U.S. military could completely eliminate their use "as soon as possible." A little more than a year later, a target date of 2006 was established for fielding alternatives, thus permitting the U.S. to join the 1997 Mine Ban Treaty (Ottawa Convention) at that time.
Sanctions-Busting in Angola
March 14, 2000
The Security Council will hold an open briefing on Angola on March 15 at 10 am. Ambassador Robert Fowler of Canada, chair of the Council's Sanctions Committee on Angola, will present a report on the sanctions regime against the National Union for the Total Independence of Angola (UNITA).
Landmines in Mozambique: After the Floods
March 28, 2000
While the floods in Mozambique during the past month have undoubtedly reversed much of the progress made recently on many fronts in Mozambique, their impact on the country's well-established mine action programmes remains mostly unknown at this point. It is not yet possible to evaluate the impact of the floods that have devastated the southern and central region of the country, including the mine-affected provinces of Maputo, Gaza, Inhambane, Sofala and Manica. Most areas affected are still inundated by the floods with the possibility of more floods as river levels increase again. In the areas where the flood is receding, there is still little mobility with few villagers returning home. In addition to mines, many other life-threatening problems confront Mozambique as a result of the flooding including the threats of malaria and cholera.
Backgrounder on Russian Fuel Air Explosives ("Vacuum Bombs") February 2000
On December 27, 1999, Interfax reported Russian forces were using fuel-air explosive bombs in the fighting in Chechnya.(1) The use of fuel-air explosives (FAEs), popularly known in Russia as "vacuum bombs," represents a dangerous escalation in the Chechnya conflict--one with important humanitarian implications.
Reforming Bulgaria's Arms Trade November 1999
For the last two years, the government of Bulgaria has pledged to control the country's notorious arms trade as part of its strategy to join the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and the European Union (E.U.). Sofia has taken important steps toward reform, but further improvements are urgently needed to ensure that the legacy of irresponsible weapons dealing is put to rest.
NATO's Use of Cluster Munitions in Yugoslavia, May 11, 1999
The U.S. Defense Department at the end of April announced a move toward the use of more "area weapons" in Operation Allied Force. At the same time, there are reports of NATO's growing shortage of precision-guided weapons. These factors suggest NATO may increasingly rely on unguided ("dumb") weapons, including so-called cluster bombs.
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2001 2000 1999
Backgrounders By Region
Europe and Central Asia
Middle East and Northern Africa