HRW says Russia, Syrian regime use banned munition

Human Rights Watch reports Syrian regime backed by Russia have used internationally banned cluster munition in 14 attacks in Syria since Jan. 26 killing at least 37 civilians

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

Man carrying a girl walks past a dead body lying amidst debris at a site hit by three consecutive air strikes carried out by the Russian air force, in the opposition controlled area of Maaret al-Numan

Russia and Syrian regime have used internationally banned cluster munitions in at least 14 attacks they launched in five Syrian governorates since Jan. 26 killing no less than 37 civilians and injuring dozens, Human Rights Watch (HRW) reported.

“The surge in cluster munition use has taken place in the context of intensified Russian and Syrian military action to establish control over key strategic territory in the governorates of Aleppo, Damascus, Idlib, Homs, and Hama,” the report released by the group said.

Unexploded O-10 submunitions from a 3-O-8 cluster munition mortar projectile found in Douma, Damascus, after a cluster muntion attack on January 27, 2016. (Human Rights Watch)

HRW stated that for each case it interviewed at least one local source who was a witness to the attack or its immediate aftermath, and compiled the casualty numbers based on name lists provided by medical personnel, local responders, and journalists.

The report says the number of cluster munition attacks is most likely higher as local activists have reported at least eight additional attacks since January 26, including providing photographs and videos of remnants but HRW was not able to reach witnesses to those attacks.

Cluster munitions are delivered from the ground by artillery and rockets, or dropped from aircraft and contain multiple smaller submunitions.

A total of 118 countries have banned cluster munitions due to the harm caused at the time of attack and because their submunitions often fail to explode and threaten civilians and military alike, until cleared and destroyed.

Fragment pattern typical of the detonation of a submunition seen in the asphalt in Douma, Damascus, after a cluster munition attack on February 3, 2016. (Human Rights Watch)

The group also urged International Syrian Support Group (ISSG) that is scheduled to meet on Feb. 11 in Germany to make protecting civilians and ending indiscriminate attacks, especially with cluster munitions, a key priority in the talks.

Organisation's deputy Middle East director Nadim Houry said, “Any solution of the Syrian crisis needs to address ongoing indiscriminate attacks.”

“A good place to start would be a commitment by Russia and Syria to stop using cluster munitions,” Houry continued.

HRW previously documented at least 20 cluster munition attacks by the Russian-Syrian regime joint operations between Sept. 30, 2015, when Russian aircraft began its military operations in Syria, and Dec. 14.

TRTWorld and agencies