The Ukrainian army recently used cluster munitions in densely populated areas in its conflict against pro-Russian partisans, according to a recent report by Human Rights Watch (HRW). The city of Donestsk was shelled twice, on 2 and 5 October 2014, killing one person, a Swiss employee of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), and injuring six others. The report documented the “widespread use” of cluster munitions in the Ukrainian conflict, which were deployed by the various parties to the conflict at least 12 times.
“We are calling on the Ukrainian authorities to conduct a serious and comprehensive enquiry to find out who is responsible for these attacks and to put an end to the use of cluster munitions,” says Marion Libertucci, head of advocacy at Handicap International. “The parties to the conflict must refrain from using these weapons, which indiscriminately kill and maim civilians, and which have been banned under an international treaty (the Oslo Convention) since 2010. We are also calling on Member States of the European Union to unconditionally condemn the use of cluster munitions, which have been deployed for the first time on the European continent since the conflict in Kosovo in 1999, and which must not go unpunished. The EU, which is currently examining the possibility of providing Ukraine with an additional loan of two billion euros, cannot remain silent.”
The Secretary General of the United Nations, Ban Ki-Moon, issued an immediate response, expressing his concern at the use of cluster munitions in Ukraine and the importance of ending the use of these banned weapons.
“What makes the attacks documented in October 2014 by HRW even worse is the fact that they took place in a densely populated civilian area, the city of Donetsk, home to more than one million people, and does not appear to form part of a military strategy,” adds Libertucci. “This is a flagrant violation of international humanitarian law.”
More than 90% of victims of cluster munitions worldwide are civilians, according to a Handicap International report. Up to 40% of these munitions do not explode on impact, endangering the lives of civilians for decades after a conflict, and disrupting the economic and social life of polluted areas.
The Oslo Convention bans the use, production, trade, transfer and stockpiling of cluster munitions. States Parties may not assist, encourage or incite a third party to conduct actions banned under the treaty. There are 87 States Parties to the treaty; 28 are signatories and have yet to ratify the convention.
Neither the Ukraine or Russia are signatories to the Oslo Convention, an international norm that all States are required to follow.
About Handicap International
Handicap International is an independent international aid organization. It has been working in situations of poverty and exclusion, conflict and disaster for more than 30 years. Working alongside persons with disabilities and other vulnerable groups, our action and testimony are focused on responding to their essential needs and improving their living conditions, and promoting respect for their dignity and basic rights. Since it was founded 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 Conrad N. Hilton Award in 2011. Handicap International takes action and campaigns in places where “standing tall” is no easy task.