September 06, 2012
A new report says governments that joined the treaty banning cluster munitions have destroyed nearly 750-thousand of the weapons since 2008. However, it also says there are credible allegations of new use of the weapons in Syria and Sudan.
Cluster munitions are canisters containing either a few or hundreds of smaller munitions called bomblets. They can be dropped by aircraft or fired from artillery and spread over a wide area. The Cluster Munitions Coalition says they have killed thousands of civilians in nearly 40 countries and territories.
The Cluster Munitions Monitor 2012 report has been released prior to the September 11th meeting of countries that support the treaty or convention. It says the destruction of 750,000 of the weapons means about 85-million bomblets were also destroyed.
“We’ve seen a huge amount of progress by states who have got stockpiles of cluster munitions to declare what they’ve got and to begin destroying them. And the other aspects of the convention’s implementation are also important – not least that we’ve got no reports or even allegations of any new use of cluster munitions by countries that have joined the convention. They are no longer producing, no longer exporting, and destroying the stockpiles,” said Mary Wareham of Human Rights Watch, who is the final editor of the report.
Wareham also said there have been impressive efforts to clear contaminated areas and increasing efforts to assist those wounded by the weapons.
However, the report said there’s growing concern over what may be happening in Sudan and Syria.
“We’ve got evidence that came out in the first half of this year, 2012, and reports continue. Both countries have been quite difficult to access. But journalists in Sudan and citizen journalists in Syria have been taking photographs and video, which we look at. And we’ve been able to identify cluster munition remnants and sub-munitions from those videos and photographic footage,” she said.
Nevertheless, Wareham said, more evidence is still needed before it can be officially declared the weapons are being used in Sudan and Syria.
“We do not have the full picture of how they were used, the eyewitness testimony of people who saw them being used, where they were used, the impact on the ground, what were the casualties? Still a big unknown for us. Usually we find that later once the clearance crews get in there and can do their surveys and can begin the clearance process. Then they can find out exactly what is contaminating these states,” she said.
The report said 16 nations that formerly produced the weapons have joined the Convention on Cluster Munitions. There are still 17 countries that have not joined that are still listed as producers.
“That includes major countries such as Russia, China and the United States. A number of countries in Asia – India, Pakistan, Singapore are problematic. In Europe also – Poland, Romania, Slovakia and a couple in the Middle East – Egypt and of course Israel and Iran,” said Wareham.
She added, however, there’s not much data coming from these countries. So, although the countries are listed as producers of cluster munitions, it’s not certain they actually manufactured any over the past year.
“Of the 17 producers we’re only able to identify three that actually use cluster munitions. And those three are Israel, Russia and the United States,” she said.
Next Tuesday’s meeting of parties to the treaty is taking place in Oslo. Norway led the initial effort for the treaty. So far, 111 nations have joined the convention and 75 have actually ratified or acceded to its conditions.