Continued use of cluster munitions in Syria

A report published 16 March 2013, identifies at least 119 locations in Syria where cluster munitions have been used in the past six months. “This report by Human Rights Watch documents that the use of cluster munitions in Syria is continuing and increasing. This conduct is deeply disturbing and should be condemned by the international community because of the unacceptable impact on innocent civilians,” says Ambassador Steffen Kongstad of Norway and Current President of the Convention on Cluster Munitions.

All use of cluster munitions is banned by the Convention on Cluster Munitions, due to their indiscriminate effects and unacceptable humanitarian consequences. 111 States have joined the Convention as parties and signatories.  The Convention has established a norm against use that is also respected by states not party.

Ambassador Kongstad is particularly concerned that the use of cluster munitions in Syria is of an unprecedented magnitude. “The pattern of use in Syria demonstrates that it is deliberate and intentional, and takes place with complete disregard of International Humanitarian Law and established rules governing armed conflict.”

While there have been a few instances of very limited use since the Convention was adopted in 2008, Syria marks the only reported example of intended and sustained use of these weapons since then. Several States Parties and States outside the Convention have, together with the United Nations, the ICRC and Civil Society actors in the Cluster Munition Coalition, previously condemned the use of cluster munitions in Syria.

“The categorical response by a broad range of concerned actors shows how this weapon is stigmatized, and useless for all other purposes than terrorizing civilians. However, the horrible situation necessitates that States Parties and others continue to communicate clearly to those responsible in Syria that attacks on civilians in general and the use of cluster munitions in particular must stop.”

“The systematic and brave efforts by Human Rights Watch and their local partners inside the conflict zone are crucial to making the outside world aware of the grim realities and the hardships endured by civilians in present Syria. This report demonstrates another important aspect of the partnership between states and civil society that underpins the Convention on Cluster Munitions” says Ambassador Kongstad.