NPA command-detonated explosives are not banned under IHL

Marco Valbuena | Chief Information Officer | Communist Party of the Philippines
March 05, 2021
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The AFP yesterday submitted complaints before the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) claiming that explosives used by the NPA are banned under international humanitarian law. This is completely false. The AFP is misrepresenting IHL to discredit the NPA.

The NPA does not use banned weapons in waging war. The NPA employs command-detonated explosives that are manually activated only in the presence of legitimate military targets. These weapons do not explode accidentally and do not indiscriminately kill or hurt civilians.

The NPA emplaces these weapons only in the field of battle and are removed when the NPA unit leaves the area. Furthermore, the NPA uses just enough explosive force proportionate to the size and strength of its military target.

What the Ottawa Treaty of 1997 prohibits are land mines which detonate upon the presence, proximity or contact of a person. What the treaty aims to achieve is to end the sufferings and casualties caused by these mines especially among children. Countless land mines have been left by warring parties and have maimed and killed long after the war.

The AFP’s claim of the NPA violating the IHL is an empty PR stunt. In waging battles, the NPA stands by the principle of economical use of bullets and explosive force, both to conserve its limited resources and to prevent excessive injury to enemy combatants. We invite observers of international humanitarian law to look into the NPA’s use of command detonated explosives.

The command-detonated explosives of the NPA are legitimate weapons of war. They are a poor mans’ bomb manufactured by hand from commonly available materials. In terms of explosive capacity, the NPA’s 2 to 5 kilogram explosives (or 10 kilograms for use against military vehicles) are no match to the US-supplied 500-lb aerial bombs being dropped indiscriminately by the AFP. But in the hands of the people’s Red fighters, they are effectively used to defend the interests of the masses.

NPA command-detonated explosives are not banned under IHL