Rights groups accuse Russia of using cluster munitions in Syria
Rights groups accuse Russia of using cluster munitions in Syria

Human Rights organizations on Thursday claimed [press release] mounting evidence shows Russia is behind the increasing number of cluster bombings in Syria. The accusations were levied as part of the annual Cluster Munition Monitor report [text, PDF] which found that Syrian government forces used 13 types of cluster munitions in more than 300 attacks. The cluster munition report maintains that civilians instead of opposing forces are often killed or harmed during munition usage as some of the bombs have delayed detonation devices, making them landmines.The report claims that not only are most of the munitions manufactured by Russia but also the spike in their usage did not occur until after the joint Russian-Syrian partnership of September 2015.

Russia has denied using cluster munitions in Syria since beginning its joint military operation with Syrian government forces on 30 September 2015, but its response is unconvincing. There is growing evidence that Russia stockpiles cluster munitions at its airbase at Hmeymim, southeast of Latakia City in Syria. There is compelling evidence that Russia is using cluster munitions in Syria and/or directly participating with Syrian government forces in attacks using cluster munitions on opposition-held areas of governorates such as Aleppo, Homs, and Idlib, and on armed opposition groups.

The groups seek to end the usage of munition weapons by creating international awareness about their deadly effects.

The use of munition weapons in times of conflict continues to be issue of debate. Human Rights Watch (HRW) reported [JURIST report] in July that Russian and Syrian forces are using cluster bombs to target civilians and rebels in the northern portions of Syria. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in January warned that the use of cluster bombs by a Saudi-led coalition against neighborhoods in Yemen may amount to a war crime [JURIST report]. In December Guest Columnist Bonnie Docherty of Human Rights Watch discussed the lack of legal oversight that allows for munition weapons continuous use despite their impact on civilian lives [JURIST backgrounder].