August 31, 2017--The newest annual report on cluster munitions reveals a sharp rise in the number of new casualties of cluster munitions, which more than doubled between 2015 and 2016. Cluster Munition Monitor 2017, co-produced by Handicap International, officially records 971 casualties of cluster munitions in 2016 compared to 419 in 2015. Handicap International calls on States to comply with international law, and to pressure belligerent parties to end the use of this barbaric weapon.
The report finds that 98% of victims of cluster munitions were civilians in 2016, and 41% were children. The conflicts in Syria and Yemen are among the most hazardous in the world for civilians, according to the Monitor.
“In Syria, the use of these weapons shows that the belligerents have a total disregard for civilian lives, and in some cases a deliberate intention to target them,” says Jeff Meer, executive director of Handicap International in the U.S. “Those who survive contact with cluster munition explosions often become amputees, with significant social, economic and psychological consequences for them, their families and their communities.”
Cluster munition usage has been on the rise in Syria since mid-2012. The Syrian conflict alone accounted for 89% of the world’s cluster munition casualties in 2016, that is, 860 victims out of 971. There were 51 new casualties in Laos and 38 in Yemen.
Whereas the vast majority of new casualties were injured or killed in cluster munition attacks, there were 114 casualties of sub-munition remnants in 2016. Because up to 40% of these weapons do not explode on impact, sub-munitions become as dangerous as anti-personnel mines and make entire areas uninhabitable after conflict. Half of accidents reported in 2016 were in Laos, the country most heavily polluted by sub-munitions in the world.
A total of six States and one territory were affected by the use of cluster munitions since January 2015. In addition to Syria and Yemen, the use of cluster munitions was once again reported in the territory of Nagorno-Karabakh, the subject of a dispute between Armenia and Azerbaijan, and in Somalia in 2016, and Ukraine, Sudan and Libya in early 2015. According to reliable but unconfirmed reports, cluster munitions appear to have been used in Libya and Iraq in 2016 and early 2017.
Handicap International is alarmed by the widespread and uncontrolled use of these banned weapons. “War has rules and the Oslo Convention is part of that,” Meer says. “Every effort must be made to ensure it is enforced and to end the use of this barbaric weapon in conflict situations. States must ratify, defend, and apply the Oslo Convention, and the Ottawa Mine Ban Convention, and other provisions under International Humanitarian Law.”
Around the world, 26 States and three territories remain contaminated by cluster munition remnants. In 2016, nearly 34 sq. miles of land was cleared and 140,000 sub-munitions were made safe and destroyed. In addition to clearing mines, cluster munitions, and explosive remnants of war, Handicap International calls on States to support risk education and victim assistance programs that are also essential for continuing this vital work.
Handicap International calls on belligerent parties - States and non-State armed groups - to immediately end the use of cluster munitions. Handicap International also calls on States to pressure their allies using cluster munitions to end this practice. Lastly, Handicap International calls on all States to enforce the Convention on Cluster Munitions by immediately ending the sale or transfer of these weapons.
The Cluster Munition Monitor 2017 reviews every country in the world, including those not party to the Convention with respect to the Convention on Cluster Munitions, which bans the use, production, trade, and stockpiling of cluster munitions, during the period from January 2016 to July 2017.
- Experts available for comment in Washington, DC, and Europe.
- Handicap International advocates will attend the Meeting of States Parties to the Convention on Cluster Munitions in Geneva, Switzerland from September 4–6, 2017, and are available for comment throughout the conference.
Cluster bombs are weapons containing several hundred mini-bombs called cluster munitions. Designed to be scattered over large areas, they inevitably fall in civilian areas. Up to 30% (or even 40%) do not explode on impact. Like anti-personnel mines, they can be triggered at the slightest contact, killing and maiming people during and after conflicts. By indiscriminately affecting civilian and military targets, cluster munitions violate international humanitarian law.
The Convention on Cluster Munitions banning the use, production, transfer, stockpiling and sale of cluster munitions was opened for signature in December 2008. There are currently 119 State signatories to the Convention on Cluster Munitions.
About Handicap International
Handicap International is an independent international aid organization, taking action and campaigning in places where “living in dignity” is no easy task.. It has been working in situations of poverty and exclusion, conflict and disaster for 35 years. Working alongside persons with disabilities and other vulnerable groups, our action and testimony are focused on responding to their essential needs, improving their living conditions, and promoting respect for their dignity and basic rights. Since its founding in 1982, Handicap International has set up development programs in more than 60 countries and intervenes in numerous emergency situations. The network of eight national associations (Belgium, Canada, France, Germany, Luxembourg, Switzerland, the United Kingdom and the United States) works constantly to mobilize resources, jointly manage projects and to increase the impact of the organization’s principles and actions. Handicap International is one of six founding organizations of the International Campaign to Ban Landmines (ICBL), the co-winner of the Nobel Peace Prize in 1997 and the winner of the 2011 Conrad N. Hilton Humanitarian Prize, the world’s largest prize for humanitarians.