In a world first, Belgium has adopted a resolution on the protection of civilians from bombing and shelling in urban areas.
The National Defense Commission nearly unanimously passed a resolution on Wednesday, declaring that the Belgian government is “unequivocally against the use of explosive weapons with large impact in populated areas.”
“I am very happy with this vote which gives Belgium a leadership role in this essential development of international humanitarian law,” wrote Samuel Cogolati, one of the authors of the resolution, Belgian daily Le Soir reported.
The move could lead other parliaments in Europe to do the same. Similar resolutions are currently being studied by the Irish, French, and German parliaments.
🇧🇪 Parliamentarians have made a crucial decision on protection of civilians, this is a welcome step on #EWIPA and comes at the right moment as it will give the right direction for the next round of negotiation on the future political declaration #StopBombingCivilians pic.twitter.com/TwqyehdCuP
— Camilla Roberti (@CamRoberti) April 21, 2021
Impact of Explosives
Coalitions that promote the protection of civilians from explosive weapons such as the International Network on Explosive Weapons (INEW) are supportive of Belgium’s resolution.
According to INEW, 80 to 90 percent of those killed and injured by explosives and ordnance (IEDs, mortars, rockets, artillery shells, and bombs) used in population centers are civilians. According to the resolution, this has led to 250,000 civilian casualties in the past nine years.
“We strongly encourage the Belgian authorities to make this parliamentary resolution an official national position which will reflect Belgium’s engagement in international discussions on the final political declaration aimed at protecting civilians against explosive weapons,” said INEW’s Alma Taslidžan Al-osta, Le Soir wrote.
“Heavy shelling and shell fire in populated areas kill and injure civilians, destroy infrastructure and force families to abandon their property to flee to safer areas. The adoption of the resolution aimed at protecting civilians against explosive weapons is a strong signal,” she continued.
Belgium was the first country to ban anti-personnel mines, passing the legislation in 1995 ahead of the signing of the Ottawa Convention in December 1997. In 2018, the European country also became the first to preemptively ban autonomous weapons, at a time in which such weapons, though conceptualized, had not yet been developed.