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Syria: New Evidence Military Dropped Cluster Bombs
Human Rights Watch
14 October 2012
New evidence has emerged that the Syrian air force has used cluster munitions in recent days, Human Rights Watch said today. Many of the strikes were near the main highway that runs through Ma`arat al-Nu`man, the site of a major confrontation between government and rebel forces this week.
Videos posted online by Syrian activists on October 9-12 showed cluster munition remnants reportedly in or near the towns of Tamane`a, Taftanaz, al-Tah, and Ma`arat al-Nu`man, in the Northern governorate of Idlib, Eastern Bouwayda and al-Salloumiyyeh in Homs governorate, Tel Rifaat in Aleppo governorate, the countryside in Lattakia governorate, and Eastern Ghouta, near Damascus. The cluster bomb canisters and submunitions shown in the videos all show damage and wear patterns produced by being mounted on and dropped from an aircraft. Residents from Taftanaz and Tamane`a confirmed in interviews with Human Rights Watch that helicopters dropped cluster munitions on or near their towns on October 9. Human Rights Watch does not yet have any information on casualties caused by the recent cluster munition strikes.
“Syria’s disregard for its civilian population is all too evident in its air campaign, which now apparently includes dropping these deadly cluster bombs into populated areas,” said Steve Goose, arms director at Human Rights Watch. “Cluster bombs have been comprehensively banned by most nations, and Syria should immediately stop all use of these indiscriminate weapons that continue to kill and maim for years.”
Human Rights Watch is deeply concerned by the risks posed by the unexploded submunitions to the civilian population, as men and even children can be seen in the videos handling the unexploded submunitions in life-threatening ways. (…)
These unexploded submunitions are armed and can explode at the slightest touch or movement, yet civilians can be seen in some of the videos carrying the submunitions around, banging them on objects, and throwing them on the ground. A video filmed at Tamane`a shows several men handling unexploded AO-1SCh bomblets, an act that is extremely hazardous. A Tamane`a resident told Human Rights Watch that people have been taking the bomblets and remnants as “souvenirs.” In a separate video from August, a young child is filmed holding an unexploded submunition.
“The cluster munition strikes and unexploded ordnance they leave behind pose a huge danger to civilian populations, who often seem unaware how easily these submunitions could still explode.” Goose said. “There is an urgent need for the government to facilitate risk education and emergency clearance efforts.”
Human Rights Watch also called on television stations widely watched inside Syria, such as al-Jazeera and al-Arabiya, to run announcements alerting the population to the risks of handling these munitions.
Cluster munitions can be fired by rockets, mortars, and artillery or dropped by aircraft, including helicopters. They explode in the air, sending dozens, even hundreds, of submunitions or “bomblets” over an area the size of a football field. These bomblets often fail to explode on initial impact, leaving duds that act like landmines and explode when handled.
A majority of the world’s nations have comprehensively banned the use of cluster munitions through the Convention on Cluster Munitions, which became binding international law on August 1, 2010. Syria is not a party to the convention and did not participate in the 2007-2008 Oslo Process that led to the creation of the treaty, which bans cluster munitions and requires clearance of contaminated areas and assistance to victims. A total of 77 countries are party to the Convention on Cluster Munitions while another 34 have signed but not yet ratified.
Human Rights Watch is a founding member of the international Cluster Munition Coalition, the civil society campaign behind the Convention on Cluster Munitions.


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