Open Letter on Incendiary Weapons

Open Letter on Incendiary Weapons from
Healthcare Professionals and Burn Survivor Organizations

Opened for Signature November 2021

This letter calls on governments to strengthen international law on incendiary weapons in order to prevent the unacceptable human suffering they inflict. The letter is open for signature by healthcare professionals and burn survivor organizations through the form following the text of the letter.

For more information on incendiary weapons, the harm they cause, and the shortcomings of international law, see this factsheet and video from Human Rights Watch.

As healthcare professionals and burn survivor organizations, we oppose any use of incendiary weapons due to the excruciating harm they cause. We urge governments to strengthen international law to prevent further human suffering from these cruel weapons.

Incendiary weapons inflict horrific burns, sometimes to the bone, and can cause respiratory damage, infection, shock, and organ failure. Over time, contractures—the permanent tightening of muscles and other tissue—impede mobility, while the trauma of the initial attack, painful treatments, and appearance-changing scars lead to psychological harm and social exclusion. Furthermore, the inadequate resources available to medical providers in armed conflict settings exacerbate the difficulties of burn care.

Those of us who are healthcare professionals, including burn specialists, understand the human impacts of such injuries and the challenges of treating them. Some of us have even cared for incendiary weapon victims ourselves. Those of us who are burn survivors or their family members have directly or indirectly experienced the effects of burn injuries and empathize with those who suffer the immediate and lifelong consequences of incendiary weapons. As a result, we know that addressing incendiary weapons at the international level is a humanitarian imperative.

Protocol III to the Convention on Conventional Weapons seeks to protect civilians by regulating incendiary weapons, but two loopholes limit its effectiveness. First, Protocol III to the Convention on Conventional Weapons seeks to protect civilians by regulating incendiary weapons, but two loopholes limit its effectiveness. First, Article 1(1)’s design-based definition of incendiary weapons excludes certain multipurpose munitions with incendiary effects, notably those containing white phosphorus. Second, Article 2 of the protocol has weaker restrictions for ground-launched incendiary weapons than air-dropped versions, even though they cause the same harm. Closing these loopholes would be legally simple and produce significant humanitarian benefits.

We call on states parties to this treaty to recognize the unnecessary human cost of incendiary weapons and initiate a process to revisit and strengthen existing law.   

Since the letter opened for signature in November 2021, it has been signed by the following 29 individuals and 4 organizations across 7 countries:

Healthcare Professionals

Sara Atri
Respiratory Therapist (Toronto, ON, Canada)

Cindy Cai, PhD
Healthcare Researcher (Virginia, USA)

Terri Chin, MD
University of California, Irvine School of Medicine (Irvine, CA, USA)

Mardge Cohen, MD
Boston Healthcare for the Homeless (Boston, MA, USA)

Christine Collins, RN
Trauma Critical Care Nurse, US Air Force (Washington, DC, USA)

Elizabeth Dale, MD
University of Cincinnati Medical Center (Cincinnati, OH, USA)

Gabriela Galdamez, MD
Hospital La Policlínica (Tegucigalpa, Honduras)

Jorge Gaviria, MD
Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery Department, Hospital Simón Bolivar (Bogotá, Colombia)

Matthew Godleski, MD
Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, University of Toronto (Toronto, ON, Canada)

Rola Hallam, MD
Founder of CanDo Action (London, UK)

Emilia Javorsky MD, MOH
Physician-Scientist (Cambridge, MA, USA)

Elisabeth Marois-Pagé, MD
Centre d’expertise pour les victimes de brûlures graves de l’Ouest du Québec, Hôpital de réadaptation Villa Medica (Montréal, QC, Canada)

Anupama Mehta, MD
The Burn Center, Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Harvard Medical School (Boston, MA, USA)

Bernadette Nedelec, PhD, BScOT(C)
McGill University (Montréal, QC, Canada)

Stephanie Nitzschke, MD
Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Harvard Medical School (Boston, MA, USA)

Jennifer Nunes, PA
Boston Healthcare for the Homeless, Boston University Medical Campus (Boston, MA, USA)

Lorena Perez, BSN, RN
Boston Healthcare for the Homeless, Boston University Medical Campus (Boston, MA, USA)

Colleen M. Ryan, MD
Shriners Hospitals for Children, Massachusetts General Hospital, Harvard Medical School (Boston, MA, USA)

Jeffrey Schneider, MD
Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital, Harvard Medical School (Boston, MA, USA)

Danielle Shashoua, BScPT
Hôpital de réadaptation Villa Medica (Montréal, QC, Canada)

Julia C. Slater, MD
University of Cincinnati Medical Center (Cincinnati, OH, USA)

Mary Slavin, PhD, PT
Education and Dissemination, Boston University School of Public Health (Boston, MA, USA)

Hannah Steere, MD
Harvard Medical School (Boston, MA, USA)

Callie Thompson, MD
University of Utah Hospital Burn Center (Salt Lake City, UT, USA)

Steven van de Vijver, MD
Onze Lieve Vrouwe Gasthuis Ziekenhuis (Amsterdam, Netherlands)

Daniel Viveros, RN
(Boston, MA, USA)

Kirsten Vogelaat, MD
Bergman Clinics (Haarlem, Netherlands)

Kevin Vu, MD
Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital, Harvard Medical School (Boston, MA, USA)

Karl Wong
Patient Care Manager, St. John’s Rehab Campus, Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre (Toronto, ON, Canada)

Burn Survivor Organizations

Burn Survivors of New England (450 members) (Boston, MA, USA)

Survivors For Good (100+ members) (Berkeley, CA, USA)

Medical-Related Organizations

CanDo Action (Syria)

Fundación del Quemado (Bogotá, Colombia)