Russian and Syrian forces are using cluster bombs to target civilians and rebels in the northern portions of Syria, Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] reported [press release] Thursday. More than 46 attacks related to cluster munition have been documented since May, and it is estimated that dozens were injured or killed by their usage. HRW has long decried the use of cluster munitions and has helped form the Cluster Munition Coalition [official website] in attempts to ban their use. Cluster Munitions in warfare are particularly dangerous to civilians due to their unpredictable nature and the manner in which undetonated portions of the cluster may remain hidden in the ground as de facto land mines.
The conflict in Syria [JURIST backgrounder] has continued for five years in a civil war based around the legitimacy of President Bashar al-Assad [BBC reports]. Last month UN human rights experts called for the immediate protection [JURIST report] of thousands of Syrian civilians. In May Amnesty International [advocacy website] reported that armed opposition groups in Syria are committing war crimes around the Sheikh Maqsoud district of Aleppo city. Earlier that month top UN official Stephen O’Brien called for the immediate investigation of recent airstrikes in Syria, which may amount to war crimes for intentionally targeting civilians [JURIST report].