Silver Spring, MD—As the war in Ukraine enters its sixth month, the 2022 Cluster Munition Monitor raises an alarm. So far this year, cluster munition attacks in Ukraine have resulted in at least 689 civilians killed or injured. No other country saw new cluster munition attacks.
Up to 40% of these weapons do not explode on impact, posing a serious threat for the local population for years to come.
"We know two things for sure about cluster munitions: they are indiscriminate weapons, and 98% of causalities are civilians,” says Jeff Meer, U.S. Executive Director of Humanity & Inclusion. “Yet we’ve seen Russian forces repeatedly launch unlawful attacks using this banned weapon. They also damaged healthcare facilities, factories, and homes. Ukrainian forces also reportedly used these devastating weapons several times.
“Warring parties must immediately cease all use of cluster munitions, which have already killed or wounded hundreds of civilians in Ukraine this year. States must pressure countries that use cluster munitions to stop. They must firmly and systematically condemn any new use and hold users accountable.”
The 2022 Cluster Munition Monitor report, released today, assesses the implementation of the Oslo Convention during the period from January to December 2021, as well as the first half of 2022, when information is available. In effect since 2010, the Oslo Convention bans the use, production, transfer and stockpiling of cluster munitions.
In the first half of 2022, new uses of cluster munitions were reported only in Ukraine, where Russian forces conducted hundreds of attacks and Ukrainian forces have also reportedly used the weapon.
According to preliminary reports, these attacks resulted in at least 689 civilians being killed (215) or injured (474). Cluster munition use in Ukraine mostly occurred in populated areas. In addition to killing and injuring civilians, it has also damaged civilian infrastructure: homes, hospitals, schools, factories, playgrounds, etc. Cluster munition attacks also threatened internally displaced persons and those seeking humanitarian aid.
"The continued and repeated use of cluster munitions in Ukraine shows a lack of regard for civilian lives, and in some cases a deliberate intent to target them,” notes Meer. “War, too, has rules. The Oslo Convention is one of them. Everything must be done to ensure that the law is respected and that this barbaric weapon is eventually eradicated from theaters of conflict. States must defend and apply the Oslo Convention and all other texts relating to international humanitarian law."
This preliminary casualty total is the heaviest cluster munition toll recorded in recent years, and represents a 302% increase compared to the 2020 global total, which included victims of both direct attacks and explosive remnants. The actual casualty total is likely greater, because of challenges with data reporting and collection.
The last year of heavy cluster munition casualties was 2016, when researchers recorded more than 800 new victims, the vast majority in Syria. The Syrian government’s use of cluster munitions was widespread between 2012 and 2018. Cluster munitions were also used extensively in Syrian-Russian joint operations.
Cluster Munitions remnants
The Monitor recorded 149 new cluster munition casualties in 2021 globally, all caused by cluster munition remnants, including 37 in Syria, 33 in Iraq, 30 in Laos. The Monitor also reports casualties in eight other countries and territories including Yemen, Lebanon, Nagorno-Karabakh and Tajikistan. This was the first time in a decade that no casualties from new cluster munition attacks were reported in 2021. This marked a sharp decline from the annual totals in 2020 (360 casualties) and 2019 (317 casualties).
Stockpile destruction and contamination globally
Since the Convention came into force on August 1, 2010, 35 State Parties have destroyed 1.5 million cluster munition stockpiles, comprised of 178 million sub-munitions. This represents 99% of all cluster munitions declared by State Parties.
Twenty-six states and three regions remain contaminated by sub-munition remnants worldwide.
Cluster bombs are weapons containing several hundred mini-bombs called sub-munitions. Designed to be scattered over large areas, they inevitably fall in civilian neighborhoods. Up to 40% do not explode on impact. Like anti-personnel mines, they can be triggered by the slightest contact, killing and maiming people during and after conflicts. As they make no distinction between civilians, civilian property and military targets, cluster bombs violate the rules of international humanitarian law.
The Oslo Convention
The Oslo Convention bans the use, storage, transfer, production and sale of cluster munitions. It was opened for signature in December 2008 and went into effect in August 2010. To date, more than 123 countries are signatories to this convention. The United States is not one of them.
Humanity & Inclusion
Humanity & Inclusion is an independent international aid organization. It has been working in situations of poverty and exclusion, conflict and disaster for 40 years. A global team of nearly 5,000 people work alongside people with disabilities and people experiencing situations of extreme vulnerability, acting and bearing witness, to respond to essential needs, improve living conditions and promote respect for their dignity and basic rights. Since it was founded in 1982, Humanity & Inclusion (formerly Handicap International) has set up development programs in more than 60 countries and intervenes in numerous emergency situations. There are eight national associations within the network (Germany, Belgium, Canada, United States, France, Luxembourg, UK and Switzerland), working tirelessly to mobilize resources, co-manage projects and increase the impact of the organization’s principles and actions. Humanity & Inclusion is one of six founding organizations of the International Campaign to Ban Landmines (ICBL), co-recipient of the 1997 Nobel Peace Prize, and winner of the 2011 Conrad N. Hilton Humanitarian Prize. Humanity & Inclusion takes action and campaigns in places where “living in dignity” is no easy task.
Image of destruction in Kyiv by Till Mayer ©T. Mayer / Humanity & Inclusion