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August 30, 2018

Annual Cluster Munition Report: new attacks in Syria and Yemen

The newest annual report on cluster munitions reveals new attacks involving cluster munitions in 2017 in Syria and Yemen. The Cluster Munition Monitor 2018, co-produced by Humanity & Inclusion, officially records 289 causalities of cluster munitions in 2018, in a total of eight countries and two territories. While this figure is lower than in 2016, HI 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 99% of victims of cluster munitions were civilians in 2017, and 62% were children. According to the Monitor, since 2012, cluster munitions have been repeatedly used in Syria. At least 600 cluster bomb attacks occurred between July 2012 and July 2017, resulting in 77% of the causalities recorded worldwide.

“Humanity & Inclusion is calling on belligerent parties to immediately end the use of cluster munitions,” says Jeff Meer, U.S. Executive Director of Humanity & Inclusion. “That combatants are still using cluster munitions for in places like Syria and Yemen is unacceptable. Any use of these weapons should be strongly and systematically condemned. Our field observations have shown just how dangerous they are for civilians in both the short- and long-term.”

Yemen suffered the second highest number of casualties from cluster bomb attacks in 2017. This is mainly due to the fact that 40% of these weapons do not explode on impact, therefore, sub-munitions remain as hazardous as anti-personnel landmines.

A total of eight countries and two territories were affected by the use of cluster munitions since January 2017. In addition to Syria and Yemen, the use of cluster munitions was reported in Cambodia, Iraq, Laos, Lebanon, Serbia, and Vietnam, and the territories Nagorno-Karabakh and Western Sahara. A third of the accidents recorded in 2017 were in Laos (32 casualties), the country most heavily polluted by sub-munitions in the world.

HI is alarmed by the uncontrolled use of these banned weapons. “War must be governed by rules and the Oslo Convention is part of that,” Meer says. “Every effort must be made to enforce the Convention and end the use of this barbaric weapon in conflict situations. States must defend and apply the Oslo Convention, along with the Ottawa Mine Ban Convention and other provisions under International Humanitarian Law.”

In 2008, the George W. Bush Administration announced that by 2018, the United States would no longer use cluster munitions with an unexploded ordnance rate above 1%. That decision was reversed by the Trump Administration in late 2017, when the Defense Department found that cluster munitions remain a vital military capability. Instead, the new policy allows the United States to buy cluster bombs that don’t meet that standard, so long as they have advanced safety features such as self-destruct mechanisms that kick in after they are dropped. The Defense Department has slowed its ongoing program to decommission the current U.S. stockpile of cluster munitions until the current stockpiles can be replenished with newer, safer weapons. 

“We call upon the Trump Administration to join the global consensus on these diabolical weapons and renounce using them once and for all,” Meer says, adding “there is no legitimate military use for cluster munitions, with or without advanced safeguards, that cannot be met by other means and avoid unnecessary civilian casualties.”     

In total, 26 States and three territories remain contaminated by sub-munition remnants worldwide. In 2017, nearly 36 sq. miles of land was cleared and 153,000 sub-munitions were made safe and destroyed. In addition to clearing mines, cluster munitions, and explosive remnants of war, Humanity & Inclusion calls on States to support risk education and victim assistance programs that are essential for continuing this vital work.

The Oslo Convention has made great strides in protecting civilians against the scourge of cluster munitions: every year, existing stockpiles are destroyed and significant areas of contaminated land are cleared, while these weapons are increasingly stigmatised. However, it is unacceptable that several hundred civilians continue to fall victim to these weapons each year. States that have not yet signed the Oslo Convention must do so urgently, to confirm its status as an undisputed international standard and eradicate these barbaric weapons once and for all.

The Cluster Munition Monitor 2018 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 2017 to December 2017 and January 2018 to August 2018.

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Notes

  • Experts available for comment in Washington, DC, and Europe.
  • HI advocates will attend the Meeting of States Parties to the Convention on Cluster Munitions in Geneva, Switzerland from September 3-5, 2018, and are available for comment throughout the conference. 

More information

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 Humanity & Inclusion

Humanity & Inclusion (the new name of Handicap International) is an independent charity working in situations of poverty and exclusion, conflict and disaster. We work tirelessly alongside disabled and vulnerable people to help meet their basic needs, improve their living conditions and promote respect for their dignity and fundamental rights.

Since its creation in 1982, HI has set up development programs in more than 60 countries and intervenes in numerous emergency situations. The network of 8 national associations (Belgium, Canada, France, Germany, Luxembourg, Switzerland, United Kingdom and United States) works constantly to mobilize resources, co-manage projects and promote the principles and actions of the organization. Humanity & inclusion is one of the six founding associations of the International Campaign to Ban Landmines (ICBL), co-winner of the 1997 Nobel Peace Prize and winner of the 2011 Conrad N. Hilton Prize.