Civilians bear brunt of cluster munitions devastation


2017 saw a sharp decline in casualties as a result of the use of cluster munitions compared to the previous year, conflicts in Syria and Yemen accounted for the vast majority of victims, a new United Nations-backed civil society report found.

According to the 2018 Cluster Munition Monitor report, released at the UN Office in Geneva, civilians accounted for 99% of all casualties recorded in 2017.

This figure is “consistent with statistics on cluster munition casualties for all time, due to the indiscriminate and inhumane nature of the weapon,” the Cluster Munition Coalition, the organisation authoring the report, said.

In 2017, a total of 289 cluster munition casualties were recorded. Syria (187) and Yemen (54) reported the highest numbers. Other countries and regions recording casualties include Cambodia, Iraq, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Lebanon, Serbia, and Vietnam, as well as Nagorno-Karabakh and Western Sahara.

The previous year also saw Syria recording the highest number of cluster casualties. The overall total was 971 in 2016.

Cluster munitions are used in Syria by Syrian government forces with Russian support, and in Yemen by a Saudi Arabia-led coalition, according to the report.

The Cluster Munition Monitor could not conclusively confirm allegations of new cluster munitions use in Egypt and Libya.
“There was a significant drop in the number of reported cluster munition attacks in Syria and Yemen, but many attacks likely went unrecorded,” it added.

Cluster munitions are air-dropped or ground launched explosive weapons that release or eject smaller sub-munitions, designed to kill personnel or destroy vehicles. The indiscriminate nature of dispersal and large numbers of sub-munitions failing to explode often result in large numbers of civilian casualties.

To protect civilians and limit the use of this type of weapon, an international conference in Dublin in 2008 adopted the Convention on Cluster Munitions, prohibiting all use, stockpiling, production and transfer of them.

Since then, 120 countries signed or acceded to the Convention, with 103 State Parties legally bound by all Convention provisions.