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HI condemns proposal for US to supply Ukraine with banned cluster munitions

Press Release | London, 19th December 2022, 16:30 GMT

Humanity & Inclusion (HI) is deeply concerned by a potential transfer of cluster munitions from the United States of America to Ukraine. A CNN report indicates that Ukrainian officials and lawmakers have in recent months urged the Biden administration and members of Congress to provide the Ukrainian military with cluster munition warheads.

Evidence has consistently shown that almost all the victims of cluster munitions are civilians. Cluster munitions are banned by the Oslo Convention, which counts 123 States Parties. However, Russia, Ukraine, and the United States are not party to the Oslo Convention. Russian forces have intensively used cluster munitions in Ukraine since February 2022, while alleged use by Ukrainian forces has been reported at least three times.

Humanity & Inclusion, a leading member of the international campaign to ban cluster munitions, denounce any use of these barbaric weapons by any party. We call on Ukraine to abandon its alleged request to the US for the provision of cluster munitions. We also call on the United States to block the transfer of these devastating weapons. The United States should urgently review its policy on producing, selling and transferring cluster munitions.

The devastation caused to civilian populations in Ukraine by the repeated bombing and shelling of towns and cities, and by the recent strikes on critical civilian infrastructure by Russian forces are unacceptable and should unanimously be condemned.

“Cluster munitions have been rejected by the majority of the world’s countries. 123 states have abandoned the use of these banned weapons due to their indiscriminate impact. The use of cluster bombs is systematically condemned by the international community.”

“A U.S. transfer of cluster munitions to Ukraine would be counterproductive on so many levels. Any additional use of cluster munitions will aggravate not just the civilian toll of the conflict, but also the economic one. And, as the world’s largest mine action donor, America will inevitably bear at least some of the cost of clearance.”

George Graham, Chief Executive Humanity & Inclusion UK

Recent cluster munition use in Ukraine

In the first half of 2022, according to preliminary reports by the Cluster Munition Monitor 2022, new uses of cluster munitions were reported in Ukraine, where Russian forces conducted hundreds of attacks. Ukrainian forces appeared to have used cluster munitions in at least three locations that were under the control of Russia’s armed forces or affiliated armed groups at the time.

Cluster munition use in Ukraine mostly occurred in populated areas. Besides killing and injuring civilians, cluster munitions also damaged civilian infrastructure such as homes, hospitals, and schools. Cluster munition attacks also threaten internally displaced persons and those seeking humanitarian aid.

Since February 2022, at least 689 civilians were killed (215) or injured (474) during cluster munition attacks in Ukraine. The actual casualty total is likely greater due to challenges with casualty recording.

Why cluster munitions are banned

Cluster munitions are a type of weapon designed to drop several hundred bomblets called submunitions, which are released from a canister mid-air and scattered.
Designed to be dispersed over areas as large as a football field, submunitions inevitably affect civilian areas: killing and maiming civilian populations but also destroying and damaging vital civilian infrastructure.

Up to 40% of the bomblets fail, and do not explode on impact. The result is decades of explosive contamination. Like landmines, the submunitions can be triggered at the slightest contact, killing and maiming people during and long after conflicts.

Civilians account for the vast majority of cluster munition casualties. In 2021, civilians accounted for 97% of all casualties whose status was recorded (Cluster Munitions Monitor 2022). More than 60% of those people killed and injured were children.

The use of cluster munitions triggers long-term needs for affected populations: the clearance of the land contaminated by unexploded cluster munitions and other explosive remnants of war, the reconstruction of damaged or destroyed civilian infrastructures and the access to vital services for persons injured, families of those killed and injured and affected communities.

By making no distinction between military targets and civilian areas, cluster munitions violate the rules of international humanitarian law.

Extended consequences and contamination in Ukraine

Ukraine is currently affected by systematic attacks, using cluster munitions and also other types of explosive weapons, against critical civilian infrastructure. In addition to civilian deaths and injuries, these are causing devastating consequences for access to essential services for civilian population.

Relentless artillery bombardment and aerial bombing, as well as the use of illegal weapons such as landmines and cluster munitions, have left behind heavy contamination by unexploded ordnance.

Official estimates say that up to 300,000 km2 of the country requires some form of Humanitarian Mine Action intervention. If correct, Ukraine has become the most contaminated country on Earth.

US stockpiles

In 2011, the U.S. reported that its weapons stockpile included more than six million cluster munitions.However, the U.S. appears to have made significant progress since then to remove cluster munitions from its active inventory and place them in its demilitarization inventory for destruction. In April 2022, the U.S. awarded the company Expal USA with a contract for the demilitarization and disposal of US cluster munition stocks.

HI calls the United States to review its cluster munition policy, which currently allows for transfer of cluster munitions (so long as they have a failure rate below 1 percent).
The last U.S. manufacturer of cluster munitions, Textron, ceased production in 2016.


Interviews available with George Graham, Chief Executive of Humanity & Inclusion UK.

For interviews please contact Rand Odeh, UK Media Officer on [email protected]

Oslo Convention

Cluster bombs are weapons containing several hundred mini-bombs called cluster munitions. Designed to be scattered over large areas, they inevitably fall in civilian neighbourhoods. Up to 40% do not explode on impact. Like anti-personnel mines, they can be triggered by the slightest contact, killing and maiming people during and after conflicts. As they make no distinction between civilians, civilian property and military targets, cluster bombs violate the rules of international humanitarian law.

The Oslo Convention, which bans the use, storage, transfer, production and sale of cluster munitions, was opened for signature in December 2008. Currently, 123 countries are parties to this convention.

About Humanity & Inclusion

Humanity & Inclusion (HI) is an independent charity working alongside disabled and vulnerable people in situations of poverty and exclusion, conflict and disaster.

Operating in 60 countries, our activities include humanitarian relief, physical rehabilitation and psychological support, explosive ordnance clearance, and risk education for families in conflict zones.

HI is a co-recipient of the 1997 Nobel Peace Prize as a founding member of the International Campaign to Ban Landmines, which led to the signing of the Mine Ban Treaty.

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