India is among a handful of nations that continues to stock cluster bombs, used for carpet bombing.Cluster munitions have a wide-area effect, which makes them inaccurate when used. Unexploded duds lying around also pose a life-threatening hazard for civilians, long after the conflict.Swedish arms watchdog Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) has warned that progress towards a global ban on cluster munitions stalled in 2012.
The Institute that assesses the current state of international security, armaments and disarmament said 212 was a “disappointing year” for attempts to enhance international controls on the use, production, trading and stockpiling of cluster munitions.
Supporters of the 2008 Convention on Cluster Munitions (CCM) proved unable to persuade any new states to sign the convention.
SPRI says major cluster munitions producers that have not signed or ratified the convention include Brazil, China, Egypt, India, Israel, South Korea, Russia and the United States.
“Several of these states have in the past used cluster munitions. Cluster munitions disperse multiple smaller munitions, some of which can explode months or years later causing civilian casualties,” according to SIPRI.
SIPRI researcher Lina Grip said “As long as the major producers stay outside the Cluster Munitions Convention, they can argue that cluster munitions remain a legitimate means of waging war and military-industrial product — even if most seem to have acknowledged their potentially grave humanitarian impacts.”
Ten states ratified the CCM in 2012 — Australia, Cameroon, Cote d’Ivoire, Honduras, Hungary, Mauritania, Peru, Sweden, Switzerland and Togo — bringing the total number of parties to 77, alongside 34 states that have signed but not ratified the convention.
In comparison, 18 states ratified the CCM in 2011 — suggesting that, while membership is steadily increasing as signatory states move through their domestic ratification procedure, the CCM did not experience an upsurge of new membership in 2012 after the failure of the parties to the CCW Convention to agree on measures related to cluster munitions in 2011.
SIPRI added “In 2012 there were credible reports of the use of cluster munitions by Sudan and Syria — neither of which is a state party to the CCM. In November 2012 Human Rights Watch announced that there was compelling evidence that the Syrian armed forces had used cluster munitions against an olive oil-processing facility and in a separate strike on a nearby olive grove, killing at least 12 civilians”.
Norway hosted the third meeting of the state parties to the CCM in September 2012, where it encouraged discussion of the role of the CCM in international humanitarian law.
Many non-parties attended the meeting, but of the main cluster munition-producing states only China was represented.
A cluster munition is a form of air-dropped explosive weapon that releases or ejects smaller submunitions. Commonly, this is a cluster bomb that ejects explosive bomblets that are designed to kill personnel and destroy vehicles.
Because cluster bombs release many small bomblets over a wide area they pose risks to civilians both during attacks and afterwards. During attacks, the weapons are prone to indiscriminate effects, especially in populated areas.
Unexploded bomblets can kill or maim civilians long after a conflict has ended.