Ukrainian government forces used cluster munitions in populated areas in Donetsk city in early October 2014. The use of cluster munitions in populated areas violates the laws of war due to the indiscriminate nature of the weapon and may amount to war crimes.
During a week-long investigation in eastern Ukraine, Human Rights Watch documented widespread use of cluster munitions in fighting between government forces and pro-Russian rebels in more than a dozen urban and rural locations. While it was not possible to conclusively determine responsibility for many of the attacks, the evidence points to Ukrainian government forces’ responsibility for several cluster munition attacks on Donetsk. An employee of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) was killed on October 2 in an attack on Donetsk that included use of cluster munition rockets.
“It is shocking to see a weapon that most countries have banned used so extensively in eastern Ukraine,” said Mark Hiznay, senior arms researcher at Human Rights Watch. “Ukrainian authorities should make an immediate commitment not to use cluster munitions and join the treaty to ban them.”
When you’re a member of a club that includes Saudi Arabia, Iran, Zimbabwe, Pakistan, Russia, China, Equatorial Guinea, and Turkmenistan, you may very well be doing something you shouldn’t be doing. And that is the motley crew the United States finds itself alongside in refusing to sign the Convention on Cluster Munitions, an international treaty prohibiting the use, transfer, and stockpiling of cluster bombs.
Cluster bombs scatter hundreds of fist-sized “bomblets” over a large area. But up to 30 percent of the bomblets don’t explode, which means they litter war zones for years after the bombing is done. They are then often accidentally detonated by civilians — including curious children who pick them up thinking they’re toys. In Vietnam alone, as many as 300 people are still killed every year by them. Some 270 million cluster bombs were dropped on Laos in the 1960s and 70s, which means there are as many as 80 million bomblets that may have been left unexploded. Up to 4 million cluster submunitions were dropped in Lebanon by Israel in 2006, meaning as many as 1.2 million may have been left unexploded.
The numbers of civilian casualties cluster bombs cause even decades after being dropped — often more than are killed by land mines — ought to mean that cluster munitions are relegated to a bygone era of indiscriminate war. Their continued use is met with almost universal revulsion, and the Convention on Cluster Munitions banning their use has 113 signatories. Even countries that haven’t signed the treaty are still bound by customary international humanitarian law, specifically that “the use of weapons which are by nature indiscriminate is prohibited.”
Six million square meters of land can again be used for farming, infrastructure and housing in Lebanon now that DanChurchAid’s landmine clearance teams have removed the dangerous remnants of war.
Lebanon has been devastated by conflicts and war for much of recent history, and it is still beset by the remains that are left behind when the battles cease.
DanChurchAid has helped the Lebanese authorities to clear up and to make the land safe since 2007.
The year before, a conflict broke out once more with Israel which resulted in large parts of southern Lebanon being bombed with cluster bombs. The result was thousands of unexploded cluster bombs in back gardens, on fields and roads. Other parts of the country have problems with land mines from the civil war that devastated Lebanon from 1975 to 1990.
A poster for Handicap International’s “Fashion Victim” campaign. The group says some countries continue to use landmines and cluster bombs, which leave many innocent victims in their wake. (CNW Group/Handicap International)
They have been called “weapons of mass destruction in slow motion” and have killed or maimed hundreds of thousands over the past century.
Today, landmine accidents claim about 12 lives per day in over 80 countries and territories around the world. There are an estimated 250,000 to 300,000 landmine survivors globally—most of whom are innocent civilians who have lost limbs or suffer permanent disability from their injuries.
Anti-landmine group Handicap International Canada aims to change these grim statistics with its new “Fashion Victim” campaign, which raises awareness of the ongoing use of landmines and cluster bombs and the many innocent victims they leave in their wake.