STORY: Launch of the Cluster Munition Monitor 2023 report - UNIDIR
DURATION (TRT): 3’16”
SOURCE: UNTV CH
LANGUAGE: ENGLISH, NATS
ASPECT RATIO: 16:9
DATELINE: 5 September 2023, GENEVA, SWITZERLAND
FORMAT: HYBRID PRESS BRIEFING
Casualties from cluster munitions reach record high in 2022
The number of civilians killed and injured by cluster munitions in the past year has reached with more than 1,000 casualties - the highest number ever recorded - mostly owing to their use in the Ukraine war, said the UN-partnered Cluster Munition Coalition (CMC) civil society group on Tuesday.
“The number of casualties from cluster munitions overall in 2022 was the highest number ever recorded by the Cluster Munition Monitor since reporting began in 2010,” said Loren Persi, Impact editor of the Cluster Munition Monitor 2023 report.
Talking to the journalists at the United Nations in Geneva, Mr. Persi described the development as “really significant, it means that the global number of casualties was higher than during the peak of the conflict outcomes in Syria”.
Cluster munitions are weapons that are fired from the ground by artillery, rockets, missiles and mortar projectiles, or dropped by aircraft. They open in the air to disperse multiple submunitions or bomblets over a wide area. Many submunitions fail to explode on initial impact, leaving remnants that indiscriminately injure and kill, in a similar way to landmines, until they are cleared and destroyed.
The civil society report states that of the 1,172 recorded victims in 2022, 353 died. It also finds that Russia has used cluster munitions repeatedly in Ukraine since its full-scale invasion in February 2022, while Ukraine has also used them, to “a lesser extent”.
“The vast majority of the cluster munition rocket missile and artillery attacks in Ukraine during 2022 and into 2023 have been conducted by Russian forces,” said Mary Wareham, Human Rights Watch Arms Advocacy Director. “That is the major reason for the optic in civilian casualties. However, it is clear that Ukrainian forces have also used cluster munitions, causing civilian harm.”
In Ukraine alone, cluster munition attacks killed and injured at least 890 people in 2022; the vast majority were civilians.
According to the Monitor report, civilians accounted for 95 per cent of cluster munition casualties recorded in 2022.
In July 2023, the United States began transferring an unspecified quantity of its stockpiled 155mm artillery-delivered cluster munitions to Ukraine. The transfer decision has been criticized by at least 21 government leaders and officials.
“One of the biggest headlines this year was just in July when the United States announced that it would transfer an unspecified portion of its cluster munitions stocks to Ukraine for use in the war,” reported Ms Wareham. “We were appalled by that decision, we fought it behind the scenes for the year leading up to this decision. The cluster munitions have been transferred now. We acknowledge the international outcry over the cluster munition transfers to Ukraine.”
The report indicated that unlike in past years where casualties have nearly always been caused by the deadly explosion of bomb remnants, most of the casualties in 2022 resulted from live bombs, underscoring the urgent need to end use of these weapons and for all countries and to join the global ban.
“There was a great number of cluster munitions remnants casualties in 2022,” said Mr Persi. “The remnants are primarily the unexploited submunitions from the weapon, about 185. These remnants are particularly devastating to children. They are interesting (to children), they are often in areas where children play or work, taking animals to the field. And over 70 per cent% of casualties of cluster munition remnants were children in 2022.”
Survivors of cluster munitions often sustain severe injuries from blast, burn and fragmentation that can result in lifelong medical treatment.
Mr. Persi emphasized that “it’s in the period after the use, often when there’s a peace or a possibility for people to return to their homes or to their fields that the cluster munition remnants start to cause casualties.”
On a more positive note, the report highlighted that the State parties to the Convention have made steady progress in implementing the convention. Bulgaria destroyed the last of its stockpiled cluster munitions at the end of June 2023. Collectively, Bulgaria, Peru, and Slovakia destroyed a total of at least 4,166 stockpiled cluster munitions and 134,598 submunitions during 2022 and the first half of 2023.
“Stockpiled destruction, this is a success story of the Convention to see nearly 1.5 million cluster munitions destroyed from the stocks of the countries that have joined the Convention,” reported Ms. Wareham. “Within those cluster munitions, we have collected a total of nearly 179 million submunitions. Each submunition can take a human life with them. So, this is where we regard the Convention as being truly lifesaving.”
The Convention on Cluster Munitions prohibits cluster munitions and requires the destruction of stockpiles and the clearance of areas contaminated by cluster munition remnants, as well as the provision of risk education and assistance to victims.
A total of 112 countries have ratified or acceded to the 2008 Convention on Cluster Munitions, while 12 more have signed. South Sudan acceded to the convention on 3 August 2023, while Nigeria ratified it on 28 February 2023.