AOAV: all our reportsExplosive violence in Syria

Open Letter to the Prime Minister on a possible military intervention in Syria

Rt. Hon. David Cameron Prime Minister
10 Downing Street
London SW1A 2AA
London, 29 August 2013

Dear Prime Minister,

As the UK government considers a possible military intervention in the Syria conflict we believe that a fundamental principle must be that UK action should not exacerbate the situation on the ground when it comes to protecting Syrian civilians from explosive weapons. As members of both the Cluster Munition Coalition and the International Network on Explosive Weapons, we wish to make two points in relation to the possible use of weapons by the UK and its allies in Syria.

Firstly, as one of the original signatories to the Convention on Cluster Munitions, the UK must work to prevent the humanitarian harm that will surely result from the use of these prohibited weapons. The UK and many others, including the US, have condemned Syria’s use of cluster munitions during the conflict. When working with the US military, the UK has a legal obligation under Article 21.2 of the Convention to “make its best efforts to discourage States not party to this Convention from using cluster munitions”. No country should use banned weapons to prevent the use of other banned weapons.

There are, however, reports that US officials are considering the use of sea-launched Tomahawk cruise missiles, some of which can carry a weapons payload of cluster munitions (the Delta model carries 166 BLU- 97 bomblets and was last used in Yemen in 2009, causing serious harm to civilians). In light of this, it is necessary that the UK does everything in its power to prevent the US from using cluster munitions.

Secondly, we are concerned more generally that the use in populated areas of explosive weapons with wide area effects, bears a high risk of causing serious harm to civilians in Syria. Research by Action on Armed Violence throughout the Syrian conflict has shown that it is precisely the use of explosive weapons in populated areas that has been the primary cause of civilian suffering. The UN Secretary General and a wide range of states have highlighted the grave humanitarian problems caused by bombing and bombardment in places where civilians are living.

While we share the concern about the need to protect civilians in Syria, the UK should not be adding to the misery in Syria by using explosive weapons in populated areas.

Respectfully yours,

Steven Smith MBE, Chief Executive, Action on Armed Violence
Thomas Nash, Director, Article 36
Aleema Shivji, Director, Handicap International UK
Nick Roseveare, Chief Executive, Mines Advisory Group
Sarah Hodge, Chief Executive, Power International
J. Kay Richmond, Representative, Soroptimist International, UK Programme Action Committee