More than 400 people were killed by cluster bombs in 2015, mostly in conflict zones like Syria and Yemen, an international anti-cluster bomb coalition said in a report released on Thursday.
According to the Cluster Munition Monitor 2016 report, prepared by the Cluster Munition Coalition (CMC), in total 417 cluster munition casualties were recorded last year, but the actual number is likely to be much higher.
Cluster bombs explode in the air, distributing bomblets over a large area. They are fired from the ground by artillery and rockets, or dropped from aircraft.
Cluster munitions are dangerous because they are inherently indiscriminate weapons. Most of them are free-falling which means that they are not guided towards a target.
Moreover, since the unexploded ones may explode when handled or disturbed, they continue to threaten civilians until they are cleared and destroyed.
According to the report, more than a third of the casualties recorded between 2010 and 2015 were children as they are at particular risk because they are likely to be attracted by the toy-like appearance of the unexploded bombs.
— Ole Solvang (@OleSolvang) September 1, 2016
The majority of the casualties were in Syria where the report says 248 people died in cluster bomb attacks.
The report also revealed that, the Syrian regime forces used at least 13 types of cluster munitions in more than 360 attacks they had launched between July 2012 and July 2016.
The report found “compelling evidence” that Russia was involved in these attacks as most of the bombs were made by the Soviet Union. Moreover, an increase in cluster munition attacks on opposition-held areas in Syria has been observed since Russia’s military intervention in the country in September 2015, the report suggested.
The Syrian regime and Russia are both not signatories of the 2008 Convention on Cluster Munitions that bans the use, stockpiling, production and transfer of cluster munitions.
Syria was followed by Yemen with 104 cluster bomb victims. Seven kinds of cluster munitions were used in 19 attacks in Yemen between April 2015 and February 2016 as part of the Saudi-led coalition’s campaign launched against Houthi rebels.
Saudi Arabia is also not a signatory to the convention. The report suggested that most of the cluster bombs used in Yemen originated from the United States, Britain and Brazil.
Cluster Munitions: Fewer Stockpiles, But New Use https://t.co/2y88TYD49G
— Human Rights Watch (@hrw) September 1, 2016
During the release of the report, Human Rights Watch (HRW) said: “Cluster munition attacks in Syria and Yemen are causing unacceptable civilian suffering and deserve a strong response.”
“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 and an editor of the report.
“Victims of these notoriously indiscriminate weapons deserve assistance and a better response than denials, dismissals, and obfuscation.”
Casualties were also recorded in Ukraine, Laos, Lebanon, Afghanistan, Western Sahara, Chad, Cambodia and Karabakh.
The report was published ahead of the Sixth Meeting of States Parties to the Convention on Cluster Munitions that will be held in Geneva next week.