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Syria forces using cluster munitions: HRW

Soviet-produced unexploded submunitions and a bomb canister were discovered in Jabel Shahshabu, a mountainous area near Hama in Syria and posted to YouTube [media website], Human Rights Watch [advocacy website] said [press release] Thursday. HRW confirmed the site of discovery by an activist who knows the YouTube poster. Syria is not known to have used cluster munitions in the past and it is not believed that it produces them, but there are reports that it imported cluster munitions. Arms Division Director at HRW Steve Goose [official profile] stated that the first video showed the remnants of a RBK-250 series cluster bomb canister while the second [YouTube videos] showed unexploded 15 AO-1Sch submunitions. An activist in the region told HRW that the remnants were found at a site that was subject to recent bombardments by Syrian forces. The site has been the hiding place for opposition fighters who used the numerous caves as shelters. There have not been any reports of casualties arising out of the cluster munitions. Syria is one of the countries that has neither signed the Convention on Cluster Munitions (CCM) [text; official website] nor ratified it. The CCM bans the use, stockpiling, production and transfer of cluster bombs, weapons that break apart, releasing large numbers of smaller, self-contained explosives which spread out before detonating on impact. The Third Meeting of States Parties to the Convention on Cluster Munitions will be held [press release] in Oslo, Norway on September 11 to 14.

The Convention was initially agreed upon [JURIST report] by nations in May 2008 following 10 days of negotiations at the Dublin Diplomatic Conference on Cluster Munitions [official website] while the US, Russia and China each declined to sign it. In November 2010, the former UN Deputy Secretary-General Asha-Rose Migiro [UN profile] had urged more states to join the CCM at the First Meeting of States Parties [official website]. The CCM officially went into effect in August, six month after UN's announcement [JURIST reports], as binding international law with 107 countries having signed the treaty and 37 countries having ratified it. The CCM was opened for signature in December 2008 at a conference in Oslo, Norway.

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