02 September 2008


After admitting use, Georgia must sign global treaty banning weapon(Geneva, September 2, 2008) – A network of 250 non-governmental organisations across 70 countries has condemned Georgia’s use of cluster munitions, just three months after 107 nations agreed to ban the weapon. In a letter to Human Rights Watch, the Georgian Defense Ministry stated that cluster bombs were “used against Russian military equipment and armament marching from Roki tunnel to Dzara road [sic],” but that they “were never used against civilians, civilian targets and civilian populated or nearby areas.” The majority of the world's nations that have banned the weapon have declared any use of any cluster munition in any location unacceptable, because of the harm they cause to civilians during and after conflict.“Cluster bombs are indiscriminate killers not only during attacks but leave a deadly legacy long after conflict,” said Thomas Nash, coordinator of the Cluster Munition Coalition. “We are disturbed to learn that both Georgia and Russia have used cluster munitions. This highlights again the  urgency of the international ban, to be signed in Oslo this December by the majority of the world’s nations.”The Cluster Munition Coalition welcomes Georgia’s willingness to acknowledge its use of cluster munitions and hopes that this is a first step toward adopting the treaty. The CMC launched a series of actions to protest the use of cluster munitions by Russia in Georgia last month and the international campaign group will now pressure Georgia as well to immediately renounce any future use of the weapon.“As the newest affected country and also as the newest user of cluster munitions, we will be working hard to make sure that Georgia joins other past users and affected countries in signing up to the ban in Oslo this December,” said Norwegian People’s Aid’s Grethe Østern, Co-Chair of the CMC.The Georgian Ministry of Defense identified the type of cluster munitions used as the GRADLAR 160 multiple launch rocket system with MK4 rockets with M85 submunitions. First Deputy Minister of Defense Batu Kutelia also told Human Rights Watch that these are the only cluster munitions Georgia possesses.In August, Human Rights Watch documented Russia’s use of several types of cluster munitions, both air- and ground-launched, in a number of locations in Georgia’s Gori district, causing 11 civilian deaths and wounding dozens more. Russia continues to deny using cluster munitions.“Russia is denying any use of cluster munitions and has rejected the Oslo Process to ban them. But just as the use of antipersonnel landmines has become almost non-existent, we are confident that international outrage over this latest use of cluster bombs will deepen the growing stigma against the weapon,” said Human Rights Watch’s Steve Goose, Co-Chair of the CMC.Human Rights Watch called on Georgia and Russia to immediately renounce any future use of cluster munitions, and to commit to joining the new Convention on Cluster Munitions when it opens for signature in Oslo on December 3, 2008.Neither Georgia nor Russia was part of the Oslo Process launched in February 2007 to develop a new international treaty banning cluster munitions. In May 2008, 107 nations meeting in Dublin adopted the convention, which comprehensively bans the use, production, trade, and stockpiling of the weapon.Cluster munitions are large weapons that contain dozens or hundreds of smaller submunitions. They cause unacceptable humanitarian harm in two ways. First, their broad-area effect kills and injures civilians indiscriminately during strikes. Second, many submunitions do not explode, becoming de facto landmines that cause civilian casualties for months or years to come.The Georgian government told Human Rights Watch that it used the M85 submunitions, which have a “self-destruction mechanism ... designed to ensure that no armed duds will be left on the battlefield.” However, field research has shown that M85 submunitions used by Israel in south Lebanon in 2006 had a failure rate of greater than 10 percent, leaving large numbers of dangerous “duds” on the ground.For more information, please contact:In London, Natalie Curtis (Georgian, Russian, English): +44 (0)20 7820 0222 or + 44 (0) 7515 575174 (mobile)In Geneva, Thomas Nash (English): +44-771-1926-730 (mobile)In Geneva, Mark Hiznay (English): +1-202-352-8983 (mobile)In Washington, DC, Steve Goose (English): +1-540-630-3011 (mobile); or gooses@hrw.orgFor more information on the CMC’s work on the use of cluster munitions in the Russia/ Georgia conflict please visit: http://www.stopclustermunitions.org/news/?id=595To read the Human Rights Watch press release on the Georgian use of cluster munitions, please visit:http://hrw.org/english/docs/2008/09/01/georgi19722_txt.htmNotes to Editors:What are cluster bombs?Cluster munitions are large weapons which are deployed from the air and from the ground and release up to hundreds of smaller submunitions. Submunitions released by airdropped cluster bombs are most often called "bomblets,"while those delivered from the ground by artillery or rockets are usually referred to as "grenades."What's the problem with this weapon?Air-dropped or ground-launched, they cause two major humanitarian problems and risks to civilians. First, their widespread dispersal means they cannot distinguish between military targets and civilians so the humanitarian impact can be extreme, especially when the weapon is used in or near populated areas. Many submunitions fail to detonate on impact and become de facto antipersonnel mines killing and maiming people long after the conflict has ended. These duds are more lethal than antipersonnel mines; incidents involving submunition duds are much more likely to cause death than injury. Who has used cluster munitions?At least 15 countries have used cluster munitions: Eritrea, Ethiopia, France, Georgia, Israel, Morocco, the Netherlands, Nigeria, Russia (USSR), Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Tajikistan, UK, US, and FR Yugoslavia. A small number of non-state armed groups have used the weapon (such as Hezbollah in Lebanon in 2006). Billions of submunitions are stockpiled by some 76 countries. A total of 34 states are known to have produced over 210 different types cluster munitions. More than two dozen countries have been affected by the use of cluster munitions including Afghanistan, Albania, Angola, Azerbaijan, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Cambodia, Chad, Croatia, DR Congo, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Georgia, Grenada, Iraq, Israel, Kuwait, Laos, Lebanon, Montenegro, Saudi Arabia, Serbia, Sierra Leone, Sudan, Syria, Tajikistan, Uganda, and Vietnam, as well as Chechnya, Falkland/Malvinas, Nagorno-Karabakh, and Western Sahara. Why is a ban on cluster munitions necessary?Simply put, cluster munitions kill and injure too many civilians. The weapon caused more civilian casualties in Iraq in 2003 and Kosovo in 1999 than any other weapon system. Cluster munitions stand out as the weapon that poses the gravest dangers to civilians since antipersonnel mines, which were banned in 1997. Yet there is currently no provision in international law to specifically address problems caused by cluster munitions. Israel's massive use of the weapon in Lebanon in August 2006 resulted in more than 200 civilian casualties in the year following the ceasefire and served as the catalyst that has propelled governments to attempt to secure a legally-binding international instrument tackling cluster munitions in 2008. What is the Oslo Process?In February 2007, 46 governments met in Oslo to endorse a call by Norwegian Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Støre to conclude a new legally binding instrument in 2008 that prohibits the use, production, transfer and stockpiling of cluster munitions that cause unacceptable harm to civilians and provide adequate resources to assist survivors and clear contaminated areas. Subsequent International Oslo Process meetings were held in Peru (May 2007), Austria (December 2007), and New Zealand (February 2008). 107 countries negotiated and adopted a treaty that bans cluster bombs and provides assistance to affected communities in May 2008 in Dublin. States that adopted the Convention on Cluster Munitions (107)Albania, Argentina, Australia, Austria, Bahrain, Belgium, Belize, Benin, Bolivia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Botswana, Brunei Darussalam, Bulgaria, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cambodia, Cameroon, Canada, Chad, Chile, Comoros, Republic of Congo, Cook Islands, Costa Rica, Côte d’Ivoire, Croatia, Czech Republic, Democratic Republic of Congo, Denmark, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Estonia, Fiji, Finland, France, Germany, Ghana, Guatemala, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Holy See, Honduras, Hungary, Iceland, Indonesia, Ireland, Italy, Jamaica, Japan, Kenya, Kyrgyzstan, Lao PDR, Lebanon, Lesotho, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Macedonia (FYR), Madagascar, Malawi, Malaysia, Mali, Malta, Mauritania, Mexico, Moldova, Montenegro, Morocco, Mozambique, The Netherlands, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Niger, Nigeria, Norway, Palau, Panama, Papua New Guinea, Paraguay, Peru, Philippines, Portugal, Qatar, Samoa, San Marino, Sao Tome and Principe, Senegal, Serbia, Seychelles, Sierra Leone, Slovakia, Slovenia, South Africa, Spain, Sudan, Swaziland, Sweden, Switzerland, Tanzania, Timor-Leste, Togo, Uganda, United Kingdom, Uruguay, Vanuatu, Venezuela and Zambia.