CCW Meeting of High Contracting Parties
U.S. Statement on Implementation of and Compliance with the Convention and its Protocols
Geneva, November 14, 2019
As delivered by Amanda Wall
Thank you, Mr. Chairman. The United States does not support adding a separate item on Protocol III to the agenda of next year’s meeting or amending Protocol III. Any focus on Protocol III at this time should be toward: (1) encouraging High Contracting Parties to comply with their obligations under Protocol III, and (2) encouraging States not party to the CCW and/or Protocol III to become party to the CCW and to consent to particular prohibitions and restrictions related to the use of incendiary weapons near concentrations of civilians.
The United States believes that Protocol III defines the term “incendiary weapon” properly and that the scope of Protocol III should not be amended to include weapons that are not “primarily designed to set fire to objects or to cause burn injury . . . through flame [and] heat.” Many weapons have incidental or secondary incendiary effects, and the risk of weapons causing fires that might harm civilians depends on the circumstances in which the weapons are used. Just like with weapons that do not have any expected incendiary effect, it is incumbent on the parties to use such weapons consistent with international humanitarian law, including by only making military objectives the object of attack, refraining from attacks expected to cause excessive injury or death to civilians and damage to civilian objects, and taking feasible precautions to reduce the risk of harm to civilians, including the risk of harm from fire.
In the U.S. experience, we think Protocol III is and continues to be a valuable and effective instrument of international humanitarian law. We believe that it has adequately contributed to norms related to the use of incendiary weapons. Thank you.