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The deadly legacy of cluster bombs

  • Published at 12:01 am September 2nd, 2016
The deadly legacy of cluster bombs

More than 400 people were killed by cluster bombs in 2015, most of them in conflict-hit Syria, Yemen and Ukraine, according to the Cluster Munition Coalition.

Over the past year seven nations have joined the Convention on Cluster Munitions banning them.

Here are some facts about cluster munitions and efforts to end their use around the world:

Cluster munitions, usually called cluster bombs, were deployed for the first time in 1943 by Soviet and German forces. Since then, over 200 types of these munitions have been developed.

Each bomb’s hollow case can contain up to several hundred bomblets. Designed to be fired from the ground or dropped from aircrafts, cluster munitions open in mid-air and spread the bomblets over a wide area. That makes them inaccurate and likely to harm civilians and soldiers alike. Unexploded bomblets remain on the ground, becoming de-facto landmines.

According to the 2016 Cluster Munitions Monitor report, in 2015 Syrian and Saudi forces used cluster bombs in Syria and Yemen. Russia and the United Arab Emirates denied using them. None of these countries has signed the convention banning cluster munitions.

In 2015, civilians made up 97% of casualties caused by cluster bombs.

Since the 1960s, more than 20,000 cluster bombs casualties have been documented. This is probably a conservative figure, since many deaths caused by these devices have not been recorded or properly documented. It is estimated that, since their first deployment, cluster munitions have killed at least 55,000 people.

Vietnam and Laos are the most contaminated countries, followed by Iraq and Cambodia. At least 24 countries have areas contaminated by cluster munitions.

On May 30, 2008, more than 100 countries adopted the Convention on Cluster Munitions, which banned the use, production, stockpile and transfer of cluster munitions. It also set deadlines for destroying stockpiles and cleaning contaminated areas up.

The Convention has been signed by 119 countries, but the United States, China, Russia, Brazil, Venezuela, Argentina, Israel, Greece, Egypt and Iran are among the countries that have not signed the treaty. 

Source: Thomson Reuters Foundation

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