Ukraine: Cluster munitions pose long-term risk to civilian safety

25 August 2022Peace and Security

On Thursday, the UN-partnered Cluster Munition Monitor civil society group, released their 2022 Cluster Munition Monitor report, on the risk these weapons pose to civilians. 

Cluster bombs are weapons designed to be scattered over large areas, containing several hundred “mini-bombs” called sub-munitions. As they make no distinction between civilians, civilian property and military targets, cluster bombs violate the rules of international humanitarian law.

Cluster munitions are not only dangerous in the short-term, but pose severe long term risks to local communities.

It is reported that up to 40 per cent of cluster munitions do not explode on impact, allowing for decades of intermittent detonations and prolonged disruptions. Of the 149 new cluster bomb casualties in 2021, all were caused by cluster munition remnants, showcasing the longevity of their impact.

Ukraine deaths

The report reveals that since the start of the Russian invasion on 24 February, Russian forces have “repeatedly” used cluster munitions.

Ukrainian forces had also reportedly used cluster munitions several times, the group said, which found that the weapons had been mostly used in populated areas. 

Specifically, deployment of cluster munitions in Ukraine have killed 215 civilians and injured 474. The report further indicated a 302 per cent increase in victims, since 2020.

Jeff Meer, US Executive Director of Humanity & Inclusion, in reference to cluster munitions in Ukraine, noted that, “they also damaged healthcare facilities, factories, and homes.”

International Approach

The 2022 Cluster Munition Monitor also assesses the implementation of the Oslo Convention. Since 2010, the Convention has banned the use, production, transfer and stockpiling of cluster munitions.

The Monitor indicates that since the convention came into force, 35 State Parties have destroyed 1.5 million cluster munition stockpiles, comprising 178 million sub-munitions. This represents 99 per cent of all cluster munitions declared by State Parties.

New uses of cluster munitions has been isolated to the war in Ukraine. Reflecting on this, Mr. Meer concluded: “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.”

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