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AOAV echoes alarm over Russian cluster munitions in Ukraine in Human Rights Watch findings

Action on Armed Violence (AOAV) expresses deep concern over the civilian deaths resulting from the use of cluster munitions in Ukraine following a recent Human Rights Watch (HRW) report. The report indicates that Russian forces have utilised these weapons, causing significant harm and posing future risks due to unexploded bomblets.

HRW’s findings indicate that the use of cluster munitions by Russian forces has led to multiple civilian casualties. AOAV echoes HRW’s call for an immediate halt to the use of cluster munitions and for nations to refrain from supplying these hazardous weapons due to the foreseeable danger they present to civilian populations.

As the HRW report stated: “Human Rights Watch visited Izium and nearby villages from September 19 to October 9, 2022, to investigate Russian abuses against Ukrainian civilians during the Russian occupation, including arbitrary detention, torture, and summary executions. Human Rights Watch interviewed over 100 people, including victims of abuses, witnesses, emergency services personnel, and health professionals. Almost all of them said that they had seen fragments from submunitions that had detonated around their homes during the Russian occupation.”

Dr. Iain Overton, Executive Director of Action on Armed Violence, said, “The findings of Human Rights Watch about Russia are deeply troubling. We cannot ignore the evidence showing the devastating impacts of cluster munitions on civilians. Russia must immediately cease the use of these indiscriminate weapons, and all nations should uphold the moral responsibility of refusing to supply them. These are not just weapons of war; they are agents of long-term terror for civilian populations.”

Dr. Overton added, “The stark reality of these findings underscores the urgent need for concerted global action against the use of cluster munitions. We urge all nations, especially those capable of influencing the warring parties, to take immediate steps to prevent further harm to civilians.”

Cluster munitions are broadly prohibited by the Convention on Cluster Munitions, which 123 countries have joined, although Russia is not a signatory. These weapons disperse dozens, sometimes hundreds, of smaller submunitions or bomblets over an expansive area. Many of these submunitions fail to explode on impact, posing threats to civilians for years and even decades, much like landmines. Their use in areas with a civilian presence could constitute a violation of international humanitarian law and possibly constitute a war crime.