PAX calls to stop using cluster munitions in order to prevent civilian harm

Image: Simon Conway

March 2, 2022

PAX is shocked by reports on the use of cluster munitions by Russian troops in Ukraine.  More and more reports are coming in that cluster munitions have been fired at civilian targets in cities in Ukraine, including Kharkiv. Cluster munitions mainly cause casualties among civilians, often for many years after a war. This is also the reason why the majority of states worldwide are party to the Convention on Cluster Munitions that prohibits the use of cluster munitions. Neither Russia nor Ukraine is yet a party to the treaty. 
PAX calls on all parties to never use these outlawed weapons.

Use of cluster munitions against civilians in Ukraine

Various sources show that cluster munitions have been used in Russian attacks during the war in Ukraine. Human Rights Watch reported an attack with cluster munitions on a hospital; Amnesty International accounts that such weapons were also used in an attack against a kindergarten. Research collective Bellingcat keeps track of where this banned weapon has been used and has already identified several cases. 

Dozens of civilians have already been killed and wounded as a direct result of these cluster munitions attacks. Dutch Minister of Foreign Affairs, Wopke Hoekstra, denounced the indiscriminate cluster munition attacks as war crimes. 

Stop cluster munitions 
Cluster munitions are bombs, grenades or rockets that scatter several small bomblets, so-called submunitions. The small bombs explode when they hit the ground. But not all of them; many remain in place without exploding and can still kill and maim people decades after a conflict. 

The use of cluster bombs is highly controversial because they cause civilian casualties, not only during use, but also as a result of unexploded sub-munitions that can still explode. 

Cluster bombs have been declared illegal by more and more countries: more than 120 countries have signed up to the important Cluster Munitions Convention. Nevertheless, in states that are not party to the treaty, such as Russia, cluster bombs are still being produced. Russia has in recent years also used cluster bombs in Syria. 

PAX, as a member of the international coalition ICBL-CMC, has been working since 2009 to end the global production and trade of cluster munitions, while focusing on the role of financial institutions. We research investments in companies that produce cluster munitions and ask financial institutions to adopt policies that prevent such investments. A large part of the companies that produce cluster bombs have now stopped doing so. The recent use of cluster munitions in Ukraine and Syria by Russia once again shows the importance of stopping money flows to producers of cluster munitions. 

Protect civilians against armed violence
PAX reiterates its call on all warring parties to protect civilians against the controversial use of weapons. It is not only the use of cluster munitions in Ukraine that causes us great concern. The widespread use of other explosive weapons with wide area effects, such as MLRS, puts civilians in towns and villages at great risk. 

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