Cluster bombs 'frequently used' in Syria and Yemen

Cluster bombs 'frequently used' in Syria and Yemen
Russia, the Syrian regime, and Saudi Arabia have been named in a Human Rights Watch report as frequent users of cluster bombs in war, causing huge civilian casualties.
3 min read
01 September, 2016
Cluster bombs have caused huge suffering in Syria and Yemen [Anadolu]

Cluster bombs have become a common weapon of war in Syria and Yemen, according to a report released on Thursday.

Human Rights Watch documented hundreds of cases of cluster bomb use in Syria by the regime and Russia, and said the munition is causing unacceptable human suffering in the country.

The Cluster Munition Monitor report mentioned 13 types of cluster weapons used in more than 360 attacks by the Syrian regime between July 2012 and July 2016.

The group said that the number is likely to be much higher, and use of the munition has increased significantly since Russia first launched air raids on opposition territories in September 2015.

"The best way to ensure that cluster munitions don't harm civilians in Syria and Yemen is to stigmatise their use and press countries that are using them to stop the attacks," said Mary Wareham, arms division advocacy director at Human Rights Watch.

"Victims of these notoriously indiscriminate weapons deserve assistance and a better response than denials, dismissals, and obfuscation."

Cluster bombs are a particular dangerous munition for civilians and children. There were at least 417 casualties caused by cluster munitions in 2015 including 248 in Syria and 104 in Yemen.

The best way to ensure that cluster munitions don't harm civilians in Syria and Yemen is to stigmatise their use.
- Mary Wareham, HRW

They are typically dropped from planes, rockets or artillery and explode mid-air sending smaller bomblets to the ground over a wide area.

Many don't explode and can lay dormant for years, often attracting the attention of curious children.

A 2008 treaty banning cluster bomb use was signed by 19 countries while 100 are party to the convention.

There have been no reports of the US-led anti-Islamic State group air coalition using the munition in Syria or Iraq.

"We have not employed cluster munitions in Operation Inherent Resolve. This includes both US and coalition aircraft," a spokesperson for the US Air Force Central Command told the Washington Post in July.

Yet Washington's ally Saudi Arabia is suspected of using the munition in Yemen.

The Cluster Munition Coalition reported 19 cases of their use in Yemen between April 2015 and February 2016 by the Saudi-led coalition.

The US - which did not sign the Convention on Cluster Munitions - suspended the transfer of cluster munitions to Saudi Arabia fearing they might be used in civilian areas.

Brazil, which has also not signed the convention - is believed to have supplied Saudi Arabia with ASTROS cluster munition rockets that have been used in Yemen.

There have also been reports of Saudi Arabia using UK-made BL-755 cluster munitions.

Over the past year, France Germany and Italy have completely destroyed their stockpiles.