Stop using cluster bombs!

According to Human Rights Watch, the Syrian army recently used cluster munitions.

Handicap International calls on the parties to the conflict to stop using these indiscriminate weapons, which violate international law; and, to provide the civilian population with the assistance they require, notably in terms of mine clearance and victim assistance.

Handicap International is very concerned about the situation, given that civilians constitute the main victims of these weapons. The association condemns any use of cluster munitions and calls on all parties to the conflict to stop using them.

Videos posted by Syrian activists between October 9 and 12, show men and children handling unexploded submunitions in or near the towns of Tamane`a, Taftanaz, al-Tah, and Ma`arat al-Nu`man, in the Northern governorate of Idlib, Eastern Bouwayda and al-Salloumiyyeh in Homs governorate, Tel Rifaat in Aleppo governorate, the countryside in Lattakia governorate, and Eastern Ghouta, near Damascus. Human Rights Watch has had this information confirmed by their contacts on the ground and Philippe Houliat, a mine clearance expert at Handicap International, has formally identified the submunitions featured in the videos in question as Russian AO-1SCh type bomblets.

This information is particularly alarming. Ninety-four percent of the recorded victims of these weapons are civilians. The use of cluster munitions in densely populated areas therefore poses an unacceptable threat. These weapons are banned under the Oslo Treaty, which came into force in 2010, and has been signed by 111 States. Handicap International played a key role in the adoption process for this treaty, which prohibits the use, transfer, stockpiling and sale of cluster bombs. 

Syria is not a State Party to the treaty. “However, most non-signatory States do not use these weapons and acknowledge that their use is unacceptable,” explains Marion Libertucci, Arms advocacy manager at Handicap International.

In any case, the Geneva Conventions stipulate that parties to conflict must not target civilians or civilian objectives. They must consistently ensure they distinguish between civilian and military targets and scrupulously respect the prohibition of disproportionate and indiscriminate attacks. A random strike on a densely populated area therefore contravenes the principles of international humanitarian law.

Handicap International is highly concerned by the situation facing the civilian population in Syria. Over the last few months the association has deployed an emergency response mission in Jordan and Lebanon intended to help refugees. It has also been carrying out mine risk education work in Jordan and studying possibilities for implementing an intervention in the affected areas by the Syrian conflict