Photo: Cluster munition victim in Libya
Takoma Park, MD—Syria was the only country to use cluster munitions in 2012 and 2013, according to the Cluster Munition Monitor 2013, which was unveiled in Geneva today. An annual review of compliance with the Oslo Convention, which bans the use, production, transfer, and stockpiling of cluster munitions worldwide, the report reveals that close to 90% of reported victims of cluster munitions in 2012 were killed or maimed in Syria. This violence blighted the otherwise highly positive achievements made by States Parties to the Oslo Convention in 2012.
The Cluster Munition Monitor 2013 noted that Syria deployed cluster munitions on at least four occasions: July and October 2012 and January and March 2013. A total of 165 Syrian cluster munition victims were recorded in 2012, accounting for 90% of cluster munition victims worldwide. Handicap International strongly condemns the use of these barbarous weapons.
“Cluster munitions were used in Syria in areas with a high population density,” says Marion Libertucci, Handicap International’s weapons advocacy manager. “On March 1, 2013, they were used in a residential neighborhood at 11:30 a.m., when children were playing outside in gardens. The attack exacted a heavy toll: at least 19 people were killed and 60 were injured. The unexploded cluster munitions will continue to pose a lethal threat to civilian lives for years to come.”
More than 110 countries condemned Syria’s use of cluster munitions, including dozens of non-States Parties, such as the U.S. “The international outcry against the use of these weapons underlines the fact that the Oslo Convention is now an indisputable international norm, even if the country using them has not ratified the Convention, as is the case with Syria,” says Libertucci.
Handicap International has been working with the victims of the Syria conflict in Lebanon, Jordan, and Syria since June 2012. To prepare refugees for their eventual return to Syria, Handicap International has also taught refugees how to identify and avoid explosives and other weapons they might encounter.
“When the conflict finally ends, there can be no doubt that Syrians will face the same fate as Libyans and Iraqis, among others, who still live with the risk of being killed or injured by cluster munitions that failed to detonate on impact,” says Elizabeth MacNairn, Executive Director of Handicap International U.S. “As our experience clearing weapons in other countries has shown us, it will take years or decades before Syrians will be safe from this threat.”
In a separate statement on August 28, Handicap International urged the U.S. government to keep the protection of civilians in sharp focus and to avoid any use of cluster munitions. Reports suggest the U.S. Navy could use Tomahawk missiles to strike Syrian targets, missiles which can be fit with the deadly BLU-97 cluster munition.
The use of cluster munitions by Syria has unfortunately marred an otherwise fairly positive report on the application of the Oslo Convention:
- More than 27 million cluster munitions stockpiled by States Parties were destroyed in 2012. Since the signing of the Oslo Convention, more than 120 million cluster munitions, some 70% of stockpiles held by States Parties, have been destroyed.
- 42 countries and territories are still contaminated by these weapons, but weapons clearance is advancing at a rapid pace: 30 square miles of land was cleared in 2012, a 40% increase compared to 2011.
- New States contaminated by these weapons, including Chad and Iraq, signed the Oslo Convention.
- Most victims now live in countries that are States Parties to the Convention, which means the countries are under an obligation to meet their needs.
These advances underline the importance of continuing our efforts against cluster munitions. This report comes days before the Fourth Meeting of States Parties to the Convention on Cluster Munitions, which will be held in Lusaka, Zambia, from September 9-13. A delegation from Handicap International will be present.
About Handicap International
Co-winner of the 1997 Nobel Peace Prize, Handicap International is an independent international aid organization. It has been working in situations of poverty and exclusion, conflict and disaster for 30 years. Working alongside persons with disabilities and other vulnerable groups, our actions and testimony focus on responding to their essential needs, improving their living conditions, and promoting respect for their dignity and basic rights. Since 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, and winner of the 2011 Hilton Humanitarian Prize. Handicap International takes action and campaigns in places where “standing tall” is no easy task.
The Cluster Munition Monitor 2013 report, which Handicap International coordinates with four other NGOs, is the fourth of its kind. It reports on a complete range of cluster munition issues including ban policy, use, production, trade, and stockpiling around the world. It also provides information on contamination by cluster munitions, weapons clearance and victim assistance. The report focuses on the year 2012.