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Annual Cluster Munition report: alarming escalation of cluster munition use in Yemen and Syria

SEPTEMBER 01, 2016

The newest, annual report on cluster munitions reveals the intense and repeated use of cluster munitions in Syria and Yemen. Cluster Munition Monitor 2016, co-produced by Handicap International, officially records 76 attacks in Syria since September 2015, and 19 in Yemen since March 2015. Handicap International calls on States to comply with international law, and pressure belligerent parties to end the use of this barbaric weapon.

The report finds that 97% of victims of cluster munitions were civilians in 2015, and 36% were children. The conflicts in Yemen and Syria are among the most hazardous in the world for civilians, who make up the majority of new victims of cluster munitions recorded in 2015, according to the Monitor.

“We must never tolerate brutality," says Marion Libertucci, deputy director of Handicap International's advocacy unit. “The repeated use of cluster munitions in Syria and Yemen reveals a total disregard for civilian lives and, in certain cases, a deliberate attempt to target them. Cluster munitions kill and maim during an attack. They also leave explosive remnants behind that function like anti-personnel mines and can cause casualties long after a conflict has ended. Every effort must be made to ensure the Convention on Cluster Munitions is enforced and to end the use of this barbaric weapon in conflict situations.”

Cluster munition usage has been on the rise in Syria, which was already badly affected by these weapons, with ten of the country’s 14 governorates hit by 360 attacks using cluster munitions since July 2012. This figure is probably lower than actual use. There are near daily reports of new cluster munition attacks in Syria, according to the Monitor’s researchers.

In Yemen, since the Saudi-led coalition against Ansar Allah (The Houthis) began military operations on March 25, 2015, cluster munitions have been used in at least 19 attacks between April 2015 and February 2016. As in Syria, a large number of the attacks in Yemen were in populated areas, such as markets, schools, and hospitals. This use led the United States to suspend their sales of cluster munitions to Saudi Arabia last May.

A total of five States and one territory were affected by the use of cluster munitions between January 2015 and July 2016: in addition to Syria and Yemen, the use of cluster munitions was once again reported in Ukraine, Sudan, and Libya, in early 2015. According to reliable, but as yet unconfirmed reports, cluster munitions also appear to have been used in Nagorno-Karabakh, a disputed territory between Armenia and Azerbaijan, in April 2016.

Handicap International is alarmed by the widespread and uncontrolled use of these banned weapons. “War does not mean everything is justified,” Libertucci says. “Not everything is allowed. International law exists and the Convention on Cluster Munitions is part of that. It must be enforced. The Convention on Cluster Munitions, the Mine Ban Convention and the Geneva conventions protect us from barbarism. All States have a responsibility to ensure these rules are upheld and enforced.”

Around the world, 24 States and three territories remain contaminated by cluster munition remnants. The renewed use of cluster munitions in Sudan and Ukraine, up through early 2015, and currently in Syria and Yemen, has increased contamination, endangering the lives of thousands of people for years to come. Handicap International is calling on States to support risk education, weapons clearance, and victim assistance programs that are essential for these countries and territories.

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 2016 reviews every country in the world with respect to the Convention on Cluster Munitions, which bans the use, production, trade, and stockpiling of cluster munitions, during the period from January 2015 to July 2016.



  • 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 5– 7, 2016, 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 Handicap International

Handicap International is an independent international aid organization. It has been working in situations of poverty and exclusion, conflict and disaster for 34 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 Conrad N. Hilton Humanitarian Prize, the world’s largest prize for humanitarians, in 2011. Handicap International takes action and campaigns in places where “living in dignity” is no easy task.


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