International community should protest use of weapon banned by 107 countries

(London 15 August 2008) The Cluster Munition Coalition (CMC) condemns Russia’s use of cluster bombs in Georgia just three months after 107 nations agreed to ban the weapon and urges all countries and organisations to speak out against this action and call for an immediate end to their use.

Cluster bombs are indiscriminate killers. When 107 nations came together to ban them this May they showed the best of what humanity can be. Russia’s use of cluster bombs in civilian areas in the face of this international action shows a callous disregard for humanity,” said Thomas Nash, Coordinator of the Cluster Munition Coalition. “Our campaign is mobilizing around the world to call on Russia to stop to the use of cluster munitions now. All nations on board the global ban should echo our call.”

On 14 August Human Rights Watch confirmed that Russian aircraft dropped RBK-250 cluster bombs, each containing 30 PTAB 2.5M submunitions, on the town of Ruisi in the Kareli district of Georgia on August 12, 2008. Three civilians were killed and five wounded in the attack. On the same day, a cluster strike in the centre of the town of Gori killed at least eight civilians and injured dozens, Human Rights Watch said.

Russia’s use of cluster munitions highlights the need for all countries to join the majority of past users and current stockpilers and sign the treaty banning cluster munitions when it opens for signature in Oslo on December 3, 2008.

There can be no stronger motivation for a country to come to Oslo and sign the ban treaty than the tragic effects on civilians of Russia’s unconscionable use of cluster bombs,” said Norwegian People’s Aid’s Grethe Østern, Co-Chair of the CMC. CMC members will hold protest actions outside Russian embassies today and in the coming days.

With this use of cluster munitions, Russia confirms it is part of a limited and dwindling group of states that cling to the use of indiscriminate weapons such as antipersonnel mines and cluster bombs. Russia joins Israel as the only country known to have used cluster bombs since the US and UK used them in the invasion of Iraq five years ago.

Just as the use of antipersonnel landmines has become almost non-existent, we are confident that international outrage over Russia’s use of cluster bombs will deepen the growing stigma against the weapon,” said Human Rights Watch’s Steve Goose, Co-Chair of the CMC.

The CMC is calling on Russia to provide information on the locations of cluster strikes in order to facilitate clearance. Russia is obliged to provide data on use of all explosive ordnance based on Protocol V of the Convention on Convention Weapons, which Russia ratified this June. Russia did not participate in the Oslo Process by which 107 states adopted a treaty banning cluster munitions last May. But its Foreign Ministry noted in June that in recent armed conflicts “the indiscriminate use of […] primarily western-made CMs, led to serious civilian casualties and injuries” and that “the main causes of cluster munition-related humanitarian problems lie [..] when they were used in places where large numbers of civilians congregate.” Russia’s confirmed use of cluster munitions in populated areas in Georgia exposes the hypocrisy of these statements.

Last week Russia reported its support for clearance of cluster bombs in Serbia. Now it has senselessly contaminated another country with these deadly killers. Russia has a moral and legal obligation to release the types and locations of cluster bombs used and it must do so without delay to prevent further civilian deaths and injuries from unexploded duds,” said Branislav Kapetanovic, spokesperson for the CMC and a survivor injured while clearing cluster bombs for the Yugoslav Army.

The Russian use of cluster bombs highlights all aspects of the problems cluster munitions pose and the reasons they have been banned. Human Rights Watch confirmed civilian deaths and injuries during attacks due to the wide area indiscriminate effects of the weapon. Evidence from Human Rights Watch of civilians interacting with unexploded cluster bombs highlights the risks posed by these weapons after attacks and underlines the urgency of action to clear them up.

The CMC also calls on Georgia, which stockpiles RBK cluster bombs, to join the international process and to renounce any use of the weapons in the current conflict.

For more information contact:

(In London): Thomas Nash: +44 (0) 7711926730

(In London): Natalie Curtis: +44 (0) 7515 575174

Notes to editors:

CMC and Landmine Action will hold a protest outside the Russian Embassy in London on Monday 18 August at 10.30am:

http://www.stopclustermunitions.org/news/?id=595.

For information on the CMC’s actions in response to Russia’s use of cluster bombs, see:

http://www.stopclustermunitions.org/news/?id=595.

For information on the Oslo Process and the CMC’s campaign to ban cluster bombs, see:

http://www.stopclustermunitions.org/

For HRW Press Release, “Russian Cluster Bombs Kill Civilians,” 15 August 2008, see: http://www.hrw.org/english/docs/2008/08/14/georgi19625.htm

For background on Russia’s cluster munitions, see:

https://webmail.hrw.org/exchweb/bin/redir.asp?URL=http://hrw.org/english/docs/2008/08/14/russia19624.htm

For Russia’s June statement on the adoption of the treaty banning cluster munitions, see: http://www.stopclustermunitions.org/wp/wp-content/uploads/2008/08/russian-mfa-statement-on-cluster-munitions-060608.doc

What are cluster bombs?
Cluster munitions are large weapons which are deployed from the air and from the ground and release dozens or 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 14 countries have used cluster munitions: Eritrea, Ethiopia, France, 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, 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.

CMC Condemns Russian Use of Cluster Bombs in Georgia