Use of cluster bombs

Cluster munitions have been used by over 20 states during armed conflict in over 35 countries.

Cluster Munition Use in Syria

Cluster Bomb Attack On Aleppo Amnesty International 599X449
One of nine cluster bombs launched by Syrian government forces against a housing estate in Aleppo on 1 March 2013. © Amnesty International

Syrian government use of cluster munitions has been widespread and is ongoing. Cluster munitions are also used extensively in the Syrian-Russian joint operations.

In January and February 2016, the Syrian-Russian joint military operation included the use of cluster bombs in at least 14 attacks that killed or injured dozens of civilians. In June and July 2016, at least 47 cluster bomb attacks were documented.

Bentween 30 September 2015 (when Syria and Russia began their joint offensive) and 14 December 2015, cluster munitions were used on at least 20 occasions. At least 35 civilians, including five women and 17 children were killed and dozens injured by cluster munitions, according to a report by Human Rights Watch - a member of the Cluster Munition Coalition. The cluster munitions were manufactured in the former Soviet Union or Russia.

Between July 2012 and July 2014, Syrian forces used at least 249 cluster munitions in 10 of Syria’s 14 governorates. The actual number is most probably much higher as not all remnants have been recorded. At least seven types of cluster munitions, including air-dropped bombs, dispensers fixed to aircraft, and ground-launched rockets, and at least nine types of explosive submunitions were used between 2012-2014.

In July and August 2014, the armed group Islamic State used at least one type of rocket-fired cluster munition and submunition.

The Cluster Munition Monitor reports 1,584 Syrian casualties in 2012 and 2013 due to cluster munition strikes and remnants, including unexploded submunitions. Hundreds more cluster munition casualties were recorded in 2014. Of those killed in 2012 and 2013, 97% were civilians.

The Cluster Munition Coalition calls:

  • All parties to the Syria conflict should renounce use of cluster munitions, an internationally banned weapon.
  • Cluster munition stockpiles should be declared and destroyed.
  • Cluster munition remnants must be cleared and destroyed as soon as it is safe to do so and international support should be given to enable clearance.
  • Through risk education, warnings must be given to communities about the danger posed by unexploded bomblets.
  • The victims of cluster munitions and other explosive weapons must be supported, including civilian refugees displaced by the use of these weapons.
  • Governments worldwide should continue to condemn the use of cluster munitions in Syria, and call for Syria and all states to join the Convention on Cluster Munitions.

Since 2012, the leadership of the Convention on Cluster Munitions and states worldwide have spoken out against the use of this banned weapon.

"We call upon the Syrian regime to immediately stop the further use of cluster munitions, and to comply strictly with all its obligations under international humanitarian law. [These] continuous violations of international humanitarian law will lead to a situation in which it will be fully held accountable for these horrific acts against its own population," said the President of the 6th Meeting of States Parties to the Convention in February 2016.

To-date, a total of 162 countries have condemned the use of cluster munitions in the context of ongoing use in Syria, most through four UN General Assembly resolutions. At least 37 states have issued national statements expressing concern.

The Syrian military has denied possessing or using cluster munitions, and the government usually does not respond to or comment on its use of cluster munitions.

Resources

Below are links to condemnations, Cluster Munition Monitor, testimonies, photographs, videos, infographics and a storify on the strikes.

Condemnations

Government condemnations

At least 37 states have made national statements expressing concern, including Australia, Austria, Belgium, Cambodia, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cote d'Ivoire, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Ecuador, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Lao PDR, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Madagascar, Mauritania, Mexico, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Peru, Portugal, Qatar, Slovenia, Somalia, South Africa, Switzerland, Turkey, the United Kingdom and the United States.

The following 145 states have condemned use of cluster munitions, naming Syria directly, in the context of UNGA Resolutions 67/262, 68/182, 69/189 and 70/234; EU statements at UN First Committee, 4MSP and 5MSP (requiring endorsement of all EU states and others that aligned themselves with the statement); the “London 11” Friends of Syria Core Group of countries communiqué; and/or the Dubrovnik Declaration: Afghanistan, Albania, Andorra, Antigua and Barbuda, Argentina, Australia, Austria, Azerbaijan, Bahamas, Bahrain, Barbados, Belgium, Belize, Benin, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Botswana, Brazil, Brunei Darussalam, Bulgaria, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cambodia, Cameroon, Canada, Cape Verde, Central African Republic, Chad, Chile, Colombia, Comoros, Costa Rica, Cote d’Ivoire, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Democratic Republic of Congo, Denmark, Djibouti, Dominica, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Egypt, El Salvador, Estonia, Finland, France, Gabon, Gambia, Georgia, Germany, Greece, Grenada, Guatemala, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Haiti, Holy See, Honduras, Hungary, Iceland, Indonesia, Iraq, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Jamaica, Japan, Jordan, Kiribati, Korea Republic of, Kuwait, Lao PDR, Latvia, Lebanon, Lesotho, Liberia, Libya, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Macedonia  FYR, Madagascar, Malawi, Malaysia, Maldives, Malta, Marshall Islands, Mauritania, Mauritius, Mexico, Micronesia, Moldova, Monaco, Mongolia, Montenegro, Morocco, Nauru, Netherlands, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Norway, Oman, Pakistan, Palau, Palestine, Panama, Papua New Guinea, Paraguay, Peru, Poland, Portugal, Qatar, Romania, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Samoa, San Marino, São Tomé and Principe, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, Serbia, Seychelles, Sierra Leone, Slovakia, Slovenia, Solomon Islands, Somalia, South Africa, Spain, Sri Lanka, Sweden, Switzerland, Thailand, Timor Leste, Tonga, Trinidad and Tobago, Tunisia, Turkey, Tuvalu, Ukraine, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom, United States, Uruguay, Vanuatu, and Yemen.

Representatives from 36 African countries have signed the Lomé Strategy, which expresses grave concern at the recent and on-going use of cluster munitions as well as by the effects of these weapons that have led to mounting numbers of victims including women and children. Of these 36 countries, the following 15 had not condemned Syria in other fora when they signed the Strategy: Angola, Republic of Congo, Eritrea, Ghana, Mali, Mozambique, Namibia, Niger, South Sudan, Swaziland, Tanzania, Togo, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

Armenia and Cuba have also issued statements that include condemnation of the use of cluster munitions.

Additional condemnations

Statement by the President of the 6th Meeting of States Parties to the Convention on Cluster Munitions (February 2016)

The Dubrovnik Declaration of the First Review Conference of the Convention on Cluster Munitions refers to the use of cluster munitions in Syria and condemns any use of cluster munitions by any actor (September 2015)

Statement by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon on the occasion of the 5th Meeting of States Parties to the Convention on Cluster Munitions (September 2014)

Statement by the President of the European Parliament on the occasion of the  International Day for Mine Awareness (April 2013)

Statement by the President of the 3rd Meeting of States Parties to the Convention on Cluster Munitions (September 2012)

Cluster Munition Monitor - Our Research Arm

Use of cluster munitions in Syria

Cluster munition casualties in Syria

Testimonies 2012-2014

A selection of recorded instances of use and testimonies of cluster bomb attacks in Syria

“Suddenly the jet came and dropped its bombs. The bombs fell from above, one after another, small bombs spread out in the sky. They were exploding everywhere, like a volcano erupting, on and on. Shrapnel hit me in my behind and back. I was taken to the hospital which was full of wounded people, many in critical condition.”
Sheik Sa`eed Neighborhood, Aleppo City, Syria

“There were so many injured, they had horrible cuts and pieces of flesh missing. Little children were screaming in so much pain; it was heart breaking, and the medics in the field hospital didn’t know who to attend to first.”
Southern district of Sarmin, a small town in the Idlib governorate, Syria

Photographs

Photographs of cluster bombs and cluster bomb victims in Syria

Videos

Videos on cluster bombs attacks in Syria

Infographics

Infographic 1: Extent of bombing
Infographic 2: Countries that have condemned use
Infographic 3: Indiscrimate attacks
Infographic 4: Submunitions vs certified physicians
Infographic 5 is no longer available
Infographic 6: Cluster bomb impact area
Infographic 7: Casualty breakdown
Infographic 8: Long lasting impact

Brown Moses Blog and Bellingcat

An invaluable source of monitoring of arms, including cluster munitions, being used in Syria.

Bellingcat (after July 2014)

Brown Moses Blog (until July 2014)

Storify

Storify narrating cluster bomb use in Syria through the use of tweets, posts, videos, and photos