AU warns over civilian casualties in conflicts in Africa

The African Union (AU) has urged protection of civilians and civilian objects from explosive weapons by parties to armed conflicts on the continent. 

According to an AU statement on Wednesday, the Peace and Security Council of AU has dedicated its latest meeting to an open session on the theme — ‘Protection of civilians from the use of explosive weapons in populated areas.’

“Welcoming multilateral efforts to enhance the protection of civilians and mitigate the impact of armed conflict on civilians and civilian objects in compliance with international humanitarian law, the Council has also expressed grave concern over the devastating humanitarian consequences of armed conflict and the alarmingly high number of civilian casualties.

“These are due to indiscriminate or disproportionate use of explosive weapons, in contravention of international law, especially in highly urbanised areas,” the Council has noted. 

The Council demanded that all parties to armed conflicts fully comply with their obligations under international humanitarian law, to distinguish between civilian populations and combatants, and their obligation to do everything feasible to verify that objectives to be attacked are neither civilians nor civilian objects, and are not subject to special protection.

The Council urged all feasible precautions by the parties to armed conflicts in the choice of warfare means and methods with a view to avoiding, loss of civilian life, injury to civilians and damage to civilian objects.

It also called upon AU member states to ensure that their armed forces and security forces, within their respective competencies under domestic law, build capacities and integrate measures to address the challenges of urban warfare into military doctrine and at the tactical, operational and strategic levels.

The Council has commended AU’s efforts to strengthen international humanitarian law compliance and accountability frameworks in the context of Peace Support Operations, especially those aimed at preventing and minimising civilian harm.

It has also encouraged further enhancement of such measures as well as their adaptation and replication in the context of ad-hoc security coalitions.

The Council underscored the need to fully assess the scale of the humanitarian and socio-economic consequences of the use of explosive weapons with wide-area effects in populated areas in Africa, in order to inform and guide mitigation measures and post-conflict reconstruction and development efforts. –Xinhua

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