(London, 15 April 2011) Cluster Munition Coalition member Human Rights Watch has revealed today that Gaddafi’s forces have used cluster munitions in Misrata, Libya. Cluster munitions have been outlawed by the majority of the world’s nations under the 2008 Convention on Cluster Munitions because of their indiscriminate nature and the harm they cause to civilians both during and after a conflict ends.
“Libya should immediately stop all use of cluster munitions. These banned weapons have horrific effects and the unexploded ordnance that will result will prolong civilian suffering even after the conflict has ended,” said Laura Cheeseman, director of the Cluster Munition Coalition (CMC).
Human Rights Watch has reported eyewitness accounts of cluster munition use in recent days. The full extent of cluster munition use and resulting civilian casualties is unknown. Urgent steps must now be taken to ensure that unexploded cluster submunitions are cleared to prevent further deaths or injuries from cluster munitions.
The Middle East has been heavily affected by cluster munition use including in Iraq and Lebanon, as well as in Kuwait, Yemen and the territory of Western Sahara, but so far only Iraq, Lebanon and Tunisia have signed the Convention on Cluster Munitions. This year from 12-16 September Lebanon will host the Second Meeting of States Parties to the Convention on Cluster Munitions.
“This region has seen far too much suffering from cluster munitions in the past. All countries in the region should immediately reject this weapon and join the Convention ahead of the meeting in Lebanon in September this year,” said Ayman Sorour of PROTECTION, a CMC member organisation working in the Middle East.
Human Rights Watch has reported that the cluster munitions used in Misrata are MAT-120 120mm mortar projectiles produced by Spain. Markings on a submunition remnant indicate they were produced in 2007. Libya used air-dropped cluster munitions in Chad during the 1986-1987 conflict, but little is known about the exact composition of their stockpile of these weapons. Libya has not yet joined the 2008 Convention on Cluster Munitions. The Cluster Munition Coalition is further concerned about unsecured weapons stockpiles in Libya and the risk of proliferation in the region.
News of cluster munition use comes just two weeks after it was confirmed that Libyan armed forces laid antipersonnel landmines, weapons that have also been banned due to their indiscriminate nature and humanitarian impact on civilians and that are banned under the 1997 Mine Ban Treaty.
For more information, please contact:
In London, Laura Cheeseman, Cluster Munition Coalition: +44-7515-575-175 (English)
In Washington DC, Steve Goose, Human Rights Watch: +1-540-630-3011 (English)
In Paris, Ayman Sorour, PROTECTION, +33-676-196-984 (Arabic, English)
See also Human Right’s Watch’s press release:
Libya: Cluster Munitions Strike Misrata (15 April 2011), http://www.hrw.org/en/news/2011/04/15/libya-cluster-munitions-strike-mis...
About cluster bombs: A cluster munition (or cluster bomb) is a weapon containing multiple - often hundreds - of small explosive submunitions or bomblets. Cluster munitions are dropped from the air or fired from the ground and designed to break open in mid-air, releasing the submunitions over an area that can be the size of several football fields. This means they cannot discriminate between civilians and soldiers. Many of the submunitions fail to explode on impact and remain a threat to lives and livelihoods for decades after a conflict.
About the Convention on Cluster Munitions: The Convention on Cluster Munitions bans the use, production, stockpiling and transfer of cluster munitions and requires countries to clear affected areas within 10 years and destroy stockpiles of the weapon within eight. The Convention includes groundbreaking provisions requiring assistance to victims and affected communities. Signed in Oslo in December 2008, the Convention entered into force as binding international law on 1 August 2010 and is the most significant international disarmament treaty since the 1997 Mine Ban Treaty banning antipersonnel landmines.
About the Cluster Munition Coalition (CMC): The CMC is an international coalition with more than 350 non-governmental organisations (NGOs) working in around 100 countries to encourage urgent action against cluster bombs. The CMC facilitates NGO efforts worldwide to educate governments, the public and the media about the problems of cluster munitions and to urge universalisation and full implementation of the 2008 Convention on Cluster Munitions. http://www.stopclustermunitions.org/
The following 108 countries have signed the Convention on Cluster Munitions: Afghanistan, Albania, Angola, Antigua and Barbuda, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Benin, Bolivia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Botswana, Bulgaria, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Canada, Cape Verde, Central African Republic, Cameroon, Chad, Chile, Colombia, Comoros, DR Congo, Republic of Congo, Cook Islands, Costa Rica, Côte D’Ivoire, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Djibouti, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Fiji, France, Gambia, Germany, Ghana, Guatemala, Guinea, Guinea Bissau, Haiti, The Holy See, Honduras, Hungary, Iceland, Indonesia, Iraq, Ireland, Italy, Jamaica, Japan, Kenya, Lao PDR, Lebanon, Lesotho, Liberia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Macedonia FYR, Madagascar , Malawi, Mali, Malta, Mauritania, Mexico, Republic of Moldova, Monaco, Montenegro, Mozambique, Namibia, Nauru, Netherlands, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Niger, Nigeria, Norway, Palau, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Philippines, Portugal, Rwanda, Samoa, San Marino, Sao Tomé and Principe, St. Vincent and Grenadines, Senegal, Seychelles, Sierra Leone, Slovenia, Somalia, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Tanzania, Togo, Tunisia, Uganda, United Kingdom, Uruguay, Zambia.