cluster bombs

Support Ukraine; do not supply cluster munitions  

Image: Simon Conway

July 11, 2023

PAX has grave concerns about the US intention to supply artillery shells containing cluster munitions to Ukraine. Since the Russian invasion, Ukraine has been waging an intense war to defend itself against Russian aggression and recapture occupied territory. This requires the right means to expel the occupier, in line with international legal principles to protect civilians. PAX supports this struggle, but rejects the use of cluster munitions as a part of it: this weapon does not distinguish between civilians and combatants and can claim civilian casualties for decades to come. 

PAX spoke out against the use of cluster bombs by the Russian military in the war of aggression against Ukraine already in March 2022. We hereby repeat this call and, with Human Rights Watch and other organisations, also speak out against the supply of cluster munitions to Ukraine by the United States and their use by Ukraine. 

PAX categorically condemns the use of cluster munitions. These weapons should not be used anywhere in the world because the risk of civilian casualties is too high. The bombs and shells have a wide range, and the remaining unexploded particles that pose a danger to civilians for years to come. In other contexts, we see that particularly children often become victims of undetonated bomblets. 

As a co-founder of the international Cluster Munition Coalition (ICBL-CMC), PAX has been working to end the use of cluster munitions worldwide since 2003. This led in 2008 to a treaty banning the production, storage and transport of cluster munitions. Neither Russia, Ukraine nor the US have signed this treaty. 

The Netherlands did sign the treaty, committing itself to making efforts to call on countries that have not signed the treaty to refrain from using cluster munitions. As an ally of the US and Ukraine and as a NATO member, the Netherlands must speak out against the supply and use of cluster bombs. This includes continuing to urge Russia to stop the use of these weapons. Russia’s deployment of cluster munitions should not become a pretext to normalise the use of these weapons. 

PAX has previously expressed its support for arms supplies to Ukraine to enable it to protect its citizens from Russia’s war of aggression. This position remains unchanged. But cluster bombs do not protect civilians. The United States and other allies should maximise their efforts to help Ukraine in other ways. 

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