The International Campaign to Ban Landmines (ICBL) strongly condemned Russia today for the use of cluster bombs in Georgia which resulted in at least 11 civilians being killed and dozens injured.
Evidence of cluster munitions use by Russia was revealed by ICBL member Human Rights Watch in a press release issued yesterday. http://www.hrw.org/english/docs/2008/08/14/georgi19625.htm
"By using a notoriously indiscriminate weapon in populated areas Russia showed blatant disrespect for civilian lives," said Sylvie Brigot, ICBL Executive Director. "Russia should now urgently give information about the cluster bomb strikes to help clearance of unexploded submunitions and avoid further casualties in the months and years to come," she added.
In May 2008, 107 nations adopted the text of the Convention on Cluster Munitions, which comprehensively bans the use, production, trade and stockpiling of cluster bombs, known for their indiscriminate effects both at the time of use and long afterwards. Neither Russia nor Georgia participated in the negotiations. The Convention will be open for signature in Oslo, Norway, on 3 December 2008.
"This most recent case of cluster bomb use highlighted again the dangers posed by these weapons and the urgency of protecting civilians by making the ban effective as soon as possible," Brigot said.
Human Rights Watch reported that "Russian aircraft dropped RBK-250 cluster bombs, each containing 30 PTAB 2.5M submunitions, on the town of Ruisi in the Kareli district of Georgia on August 12, 2008. Three civilians were killed and five wounded in the attack. On the same day, a cluster strike in the center of the town of Gori killed at least eight civilians and injured dozens, Human Rights Watch said. Dutch journalist Stan Storimans was among the dead. Israeli journalist Zadok Yehezkeli was seriously wounded and evacuated to Israel for treatment after surgery in Tbilisi. An armored vehicle from the Reuters news agency was perforated with shrapnel from the attack."
Georgia, and others in the region, are affected by landmine and unexploded ordnance contamination from past conflicts.
"Now that Georgia is affected by cluster munitions, we urge it to join other affected states in signing the Convention on Cluster Munitions in December," Brigot said.
This was the first known incident of cluster munitions use since 2006. Cluster munitions have been used by at least 14 countries, including most recently Israel during the war with Hezbollah in Lebanon, the USA and UK in Iraq, and the USA in Afghanistan. In Iraq in 2003 and Kosovo in 1999, cluster munitions caused more casualties than any other weapon system.
The ICBL is a member of the Cluster Munitions Coalition (www.stopclustermunitions.org), the international network of civil society organizations working towards a prohibition of these weapons.
For more information see HRW press release at www.hrw.org/english/docs/2008/08/14/georgi19625.htm
For more information on past mine contamination in Georgia see www.icbl.org/lm/2007/georgia
Press contact: Sylvie Brigot +33 607172776