Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] called [press release] Monday for the nations at the UN disarmament meeting later this week to strengthen international law surrounding incendiary weapons [HRW backgrounder] in response to the use of such weapons by the Syrian and Russian forces in 2017.
Protocol III of the Convention on Conventional Weapons (CCW) [text] currently controls the use of incendiary weapons, and HRW hopes that the countries at the UN disarmament meeting, held in Geneva this week, will initiate a review of the law, which has failed to prevent their use and has endangered civilians. HRW urges that Protocol III be strengthened by expanding the definition of incendiary weapons to include white phosphorus and by banning the use of all incendiary weapons in civilian areas. There have been 80 documented attacks with incendiary weapons by Syria and Russia within the last five years, which have caused severe civilian harm. Syria is not a party to Protocol III, but Russia is.
The press release stated:
Strengthening Protocol III would bind states parties to stricter rules while putting greater pressure on parties outside the CCW to comply with its standards. Stigmatization of incendiary weapons has already proven effective in influencing the decision-making of states not party, including Israel, which changed its policy and practice regarding white phosphorus munitions after attracting international condemnation in 2009.
It went on to say that advancing discussions about these weapons “will improve the protection of civilians from incendiary weapons, an especially cruel and indiscriminate category of munitions.”
The use of these weapons have been an ongoing human rights issue. In October 2016 a UN children’s rights expert stated [JURIST report] that Syria’s continued infliction of harm on children is a “brutal abdication of human rights obligations they have committed to respect.”