19 July 2022, 10:37

Russia "saving" the world with banned weapons

Iryna Movchan
Iryna Movchan «ЮФ ILF» lawyer

Everything in this life has its rules, limitations and laws. War and its other interpretations, be it military operation or armed conflict, are no exception. However, not all parties to war stick to these rules, like Russia, which is already thought of as a terrorist state in many countries, and in some has even been officially recognized as such.

The universal rules of war prohibit:

● using poison or poisoned weapons;

● killing or injuring persons belonging to the enemy’s nation or armed forces through treacherous means;

● killing or injuring an enemy who laid down his arms and unconditionally surrendered;

● declaring that there will be no quarter;

● using weapons, projectiles or substances that cause unnecessary suffering;

● attacking or bombing unprotected cities, villages, residential buildings or structures;

● using certain types of weapons, etc.

Moreover, during a siege or bombardment, the attacking force must avoid damaging buildings dedicated to religion, art, science or charity, historic monuments, hospitals and other places where the sick and the wounded are being treated, as long as these places are not used for military purposes.

In defiance of all these rules, Russia, calling itself a “peacemaker” on a “humanitarian mission,” mercilessly bombed a maternity hospital and the Drama Theater in Mariupol (despite the fact that about a thousand people were hiding there, including children), destroyed the National Grygoriy Skovoroda Museum in Kharkiv Region, leveled the Amstor shopping mall in Kremenchuk with a missile strike (with about a thousand people inside as well), and continues perpetrating heinous crimes against Ukrainians that can’t be seen as anything other than genocide. This clearly shows that Russia’s idea of “saving” has nothing to do with aid and peace.

The rights of warring parties are regulated in a number of international documents, the main ones being the Convention (IV) respecting the Laws and Customs of War on Land and its annex: Regulations concerning the Laws and Customs of War on Land of 1907 as well as the Geneva Conventions, which define international legal standards for humane conduct during war. The conventions allow a limited number of ways of inflicting damage on the adversary. It’s forbidden to use poisons or poisoned weapons, or weapons, munitions or materials designed to inflict unnecessary suffering. Also, the Saint Petersburg Declaration of 1868 forbids the use of weapons that senselessly aggravate the suffering of a disabled enemy or makes his death inevitable and is contrary to the principles of humanity.

Common types of banned arms and munitions include:

● projectiles that weigh less than 400 grams and that are either explosive or charged with fulminating or inflammable substances. (Saint Petersburg Declaration of 1868);

● bullets which expand or flatten easily in the human body, such as bullets with a hard envelope which does not entirely cover the core, or is pierced with incisions. (Declaration on the Use of Bullets Which Expand or Flatten Easily in the Human Body, Hague Convention of 1899);

● chemical and biological weapons (Chemical Weapons Convention of 1993, Biological Weapons Convention of 1972, Geneva Protocol of 1925, Declaration on the Use of Projectiles the Object of Which is the Diffusion of Asphyxiating or Deleterious Gases);

● weapons the primary effect of which is to injure by fragments that are undetectable by X-rays. (Protocol I to the UN Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons);

● anti-personnel mines and booby traps (Anti-Personnel Landmines Convention (Ottawa, 1997), Protocol II to the UN Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons);

● incendiary weapons and munitions (Protocol III to the UN Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons);

● laser weapons specifically designed, as their sole combat function or as one of their combat functions, to cause permanent blindness to unenhanced vision, that is to the naked eye or to the eye with corrective eyesight devices (Protocol IV to the UN Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons);

● cluster munitions (Convention on Cluster Munitions).

Over the past decades, Russia has been involved in many wars and armed conflicts. In most of those, their troops were supposedly “saving” local populations, except the locals were never happy about that and didn’t want that kind of “help.”

In some of these conflicts, Russian armed forces routinely resorted to banned weapons. For instance, during their interference in the Syrian civil war to back the dictatorship there, Russian troops were ordered to use cluster bombs – munitions that detonate in the air, scattering bomblets over a wide area and, as a result, putting the lives of civilians in mortal danger. Also, during the Chechen-Russian war, Russia used vacuum bombs (thermobaric weapons), which, although not explicitly prohibited, is a war crime under the Hague Conventions of 1899 and 1907.

Unfortunately, Ukraine is now in the same situation. On February 24, Russia launched a full-scale invasion into our country. Since then, for 4 months and counting, Ukrainians have been dealing with airstrikes, shelling by multiple rocket launchers and mortars, and other attacks. Every day, Russians are dropping bombs on civilian infrastructure and residential areas of Ukrainian cities.

Some cities have been reduced to ruins by cruise missiles and other prohibited weapons. According to The New York Times, Russian troops have already used in Ukraine at least 210 types of weapons that are banned by international conventions. Furthermore, according to Ukraine’s State Special Communications Service, Russia’s Ministry of Defense has acknowledged the use of thermobaric weapons – heavy flamethrower systems – in Ukraine. Such weapons are illegal and may not be used against military targets if it puts civilians at risk. Russia has also been using white phosphorus munitions, such as near Avdiyivka or against the defenders of the Azovstal steelworks, as well as cluster bombs, like in Kharkiv, which is also prohibited by international conventions.

Ukraine has already documented almost 15,000 flagrant violations of the laws and customs of war by Russia. Together with partners, Ukraine’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs has created an online archive of these crimes.

In summary, Russia is daily violating international conventions and rules of warfare, thinking that might makes right. Russian troops continue attacking Ukrainian cities with dangerous, inhumane and banned weaponry. Nevertheless, every single one of these crimes will be documented, and those responsible will face justice.

You can read the article in Ukrainian by following the link.

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