Thank you, Mr. Chairman
As CCW states parties discuss plans for the Fourth Review Conference, they should prioritize revisiting Protocol III on incendiary weapons. While Protocol III was drafted to reduce the human suffering associated with these weapons, it is not meeting its goal. States and non-state armed groups have continued to use incendiary munitions at great cost to civilians because the international community has failed to generate clear legal prohibitions and sufficient stigma against them.
Protocol III allows ongoing use of incendiary munitions in ways harmful to civilians due to definitional loopholes and narrow regulations. Its definition looks only at the primary design of a munition. As a result, it fails to cover some incendiary munitions that are not "primarily designed" as weapons yet cause unacceptable civilian harm. In addition, the protocol's key regulations apply only to use in populated areas and are weaker for ground-launched than for air-dropped models.
Regardless of their type, targeting, and delivery mechanism, however, incendiary munitions cause cruel and lasting injury to people. The munitions produce exceptionally painful thermal and respiratory burns, which can lead to complications such as shock, infection, and asphyxiation. People who survive often suffer long-term physical and psychological damage.
While more than 180 models of incendiary weapons exist, the effects of those with two types of chemical substances-napalm and white phosphorus-exemplify the specific humanitarian problems this class of weapons presents. A sticky substance, napalm spreads and continues to burn as victims try to wipe it off their skin and their clothing. One victim described the wounds it produces as "the most terrible pain you can imagine."
Munitions that contain white phosphorus, which burns at more than 800° C, cause severe thermal and chemical burns that often reach the bone. Wounds can worsen after treatment or even reignite after bandages are removed. These munitions also often have a broad area effect, which increases the risk of their being used indiscriminately. Because they are designed to produce smokescreens or to illuminate targets, some states argue they are not covered by Protocol III as written.
Urgent action is needed in light of the egregious and ongoing harms of incendiary weapons. At the Fourth Review Conference in November, states should adopt a mandate to negotiate an amended Protocol III. States should aim to complete their work by the end of 2012.
We will discuss these issues in more depth at a side event at 1 p.m. tomorrow in Room 24. We also have two memos available at the back of the room: a new one on the harm incendiary weapons cause and their past use as well as our November paper on the legal reasons for amending Protocol III.