Example of cluster munition BLU 63 2. This USA cluster sub-munition contains around 115 grams of high explosive and is designed to function on impact or shortly after impact. | © Z. Johnson / HI
The Biden Administration is expected to announce today that it will transfer cluster munitions to Ukraine, a weapon that is banned by 123 countries.
Cluster Munitions do not discriminate between combatants and civilians. At least 149 civilians were killed or injured worldwide by this weapon in 2021, according to 2022 Cluster Munition Monitor. As up to 40% of these weapons do not explode on impact, heavy contamination by cluster munition remnants poses a serious threat for the local population a long time after the combats.
“Cluster munitions are among the most harmful weapons for civilians. They are inherently indiscriminate and pose a grave risk to civilians as they can cause casualties long after the conflict has ended. For the past 40 years, HI has been working alongside victims and survivors of cluster munitions. For us, the issue is first and foremost a humanitarian one: in addition to its deadly civilian toll, it will hinder physical access to many humanitarian actors.” Anne Hery, HI Advocacy Director
Cluster bombs kill and maim, and cause psychological trauma. Civilians accounted for the vast majority of casualties, making up 90% of all casualties. Half of those people killed and injured were children.
Civilians are always the major victims of these weapons. At least 149 civilians were killed or injured in 2021 by cluster munition, all caused by cluster munition remnants during this year: 37 in Syria, 33 in Iraq, 30 in Laos, etc. The actual casualty total is likely greater due to challenges with casualty recording. The Monitor also reports casualties in 8 other countries and territories including Yemen, Lebanon, Nagorno-Karabakh, Tajikistan, etc.
Cluster munitions consist of a container filled with multiple bomblets. When fired, the cluster munition opens in mid-air, releasing and dispersing the bomblets over a wide area. Not all bomblets are designed to detonate on impact. Some have time-delay mechanisms which can be set for hours, days, or even months. This adds an additional hazard as when they detonate either after a pre-programmed time or through a self-destruct function, civilians can be injured or killed by the fragmentation. Cluster munitions are indiscriminate weapons due to their wide area effect and the potential for unexploded bomblets to remain dangerous long after conflicts have ended.
The Oslo Convention, which bans the use, storage, transfer, production and sale of cluster munitions, was opened for signature in December 2008. Currently, 123 countries are signatories to this convention.
About Humanity & Inclusion
HI is an independent international aid organisation. It has been working in situations of poverty and exclusion, conflict and disaster for 40 years. Working alongside people with disabilities and other vulnerable groups, our action and testimony are focused on responding to their essential needs, improving their living conditions and promoting respect for their dignity and basic rights. Since it was founded in 1982, Humanity & Inclusion (formerly Handicap International) has set up development programmes in more than 60 countries and intervenes in numerous emergency situations. There are eight national associations within the network (Germany, Belgium, Canada, United States, France, Luxembourg, UK and Switzerland), working tirelessly to mobilise resources, co-manage projects and increase the impact of the organisation’s principles and actions. HI is one of six founding organisations of the International Campaign to Ban Landmines (ICBL), co-recipient of the 1997 Nobel Peace Prize and winner of the Conrad N. Hilton Award in 2011. HI takes action and campaigns in places where “living in dignity” is no easy task.”