The Cluster Munition Coalition says Syria, with Russia’s support, remains the only country still using cluster munitions, a weapon that has been outlawed by most of the world.
Since the treaty banning cluster munitions took effect 10 years ago, 103 states have joined and another 17 have signed on but not yet ratified it. Syria, which is not party to the treaty, reportedly has been using cluster munitions since mid-2012, about one year after civil war broke out there. According to the Cluster Munition Coalition — an international civil society movement that campaigns against the devices — Syria denies possessing or using such weapons.
Mary Wareham of Human Rights Watch is an editor of Cluster Munition Monitor 2018, the latest annual report of the Cluster Munition Coalition, a global group of nongovernmental organizations co-founded and chaired by HRW. She said the use of both air-dropped and ground-launched cluster munitions had increased since Russia joined Syrian military operations in 2015, but that their use had fallen off this year.
“There are several reasons for that,” she said. “One is that … the territory held by the opposition forces has been shrinking in the past year. Most of the cluster munition attacks have been centered on Idlib. … A cluster munition rocket attack a couple of weeks ago in Idlib resulted in civilian casualties. And there has been use of air-dropped cluster munitions in Dhouma and in other governorates.”
The Monitor said the Saudi Arabian-led coalition in Yemen continued to use cluster munitions in 2017. But Wareham said there was little evidence that such attacks have continued this year.
“It does appear that in the case of Yemen, the stigmatization effort has had some impact,” she said. “You probably have seen some of the efforts that have been undertaken to convince the Saudi Arabian-led coalition not to use cluster munitions, and I think that has paid off.”
Authors of the report said parties to the convention had destroyed 99 percent of their stockpiles, ridding the world of more than 33,500 cluster munitions and more than 1.7 million submunitions that are part of these weapons systems.
The Monitor recorded 289 cluster munitions casualties in 2017, a sharp decrease from the 971 in 2016; however, the report added that the actual global total was probably much higher because many casualties go unreported.