US expected to provide largely banned cluster munitions
The Biden Administration is expected to announce today that it will transfer cluster munitions to Ukraine, a weapon that is banned by 123 countries.
example of cluster munition BLU 63 2. This USA cluster sub-munition contains around 115 grams of high explosive and is designed to function on impact or shortly after impact. | © Z. Johnson / HI
Cluster Munitions do not discriminate between combatants and civilians. At least 149 civilians were killed or injured worldwide by this weapon in 2021, according to 2022 Cluster Munition Monitor. As up to 40% of these weapons do not explode on impact, heavy contamination by cluster munition remnants poses a serious threat for the local population a long time after the combats.
Victims of cluster munitions
Cluster bombs kill and maim, and cause psychological trauma. Civilians accounted for the vast majority of casualties, making up 90% of all casualties. Half of those people killed and injured were children.
Civilians are always the major victims of these weapons. At least 149 civilians were killed or injured in 2021 by cluster munition, all caused by cluster munition remnants during this year: 37 in Syria, 33 in Iraq, 30 in Laos, etc. The actual casualty total is likely greater due to challenges with casualty recording. The Monitor also reports casualties in 8 other countries and territories including Yemen, Lebanon, Nagorno-Karabakh, Tajikistan, etc.
What is cluster munition?
Cluster munitions consist of a container filled with multiple bomblets. When fired, the cluster munition opens in mid-air, releasing and dispersing the bomblets over a wide area. Not all bomblets are designed to detonate on impact. Some have time-delay mechanisms which can be set for hours, days, or even months. This adds an additional hazard as when they detonate either after a pre-programmed time or through a self-destruct function, civilians can be injured or killed by the fragmentation. Cluster munitions are indiscriminate weapons due to their wide area effect and the potential for unexploded bomblets to remain dangerous long after conflicts have ended.
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 signatories to this convention.
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