Human Rights Watch Documents Impact of Cluster Munitions in Georgia

Human Rights Watch released a report today outlining the impact of cluster munitions deployed during the Russia-Georgia conflict last year.

“The loss of lives and livelihoods from cluster munitions used by Russia and Georgia during the August 2008 armed conflict reinforces the importance of the new treaty banning the weapon,” said the campaign group.

The report, entitled, “A Dying Practice: Use of Cluster Munitions by Russia and Georgia in August 2008,” accuses Russia of breaking international humanitarian law “with indiscriminate and disproportionate cluster munition attacks on populated areas in Georgia.”  It also shows that Georgia too used cluster munitions in or near civilian areas. At least 16 civilians were killed and over 50 injured by cluster bombs during and after the conflict.

Neither Russia nor Georgia are signatories to the Cluster Munition Convention, which banned the production, stockpiling, transfer and trade in cluster bombs, a weapon widely regarded as inherently indisriminate. Some 100 countries have signed the treaty.

The report comes as opponents to the Convention, including the USA, Russia, Georgia and China, are spearheading an effort to create an alternative international legal framework for cluster munitions. At a four day meeting of the Convention on Conventional Weapons in Geneva, they are trying to negotiate an instrument to regulate, rather than ban, cluster bombs. 

There is perhaps  irony in Russia and Georgia being on the same side of this debate. They essentially agree on the right for either of them to use cluster bombs against the other if the conflict breaks out again.

“Cluster munitions always kill and maim civilians, during the fighting and long afterward,” said Bonnie Docherty, researcher in the Arms Division of Human Rights Watch and author of the report. “A comprehensive prohibition is the only real solution. So-called responsible use of cluster munitions is a myth, and nations should resist efforts to weaken the ban.”

~ by Matthew Bolton on 14 April 2009.

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