Human Rights Watch
U.S. Using Cluster Munitions In Iraq
- April 1 - U.S. ground forces in Iraq are using cluster munitions
with a very high failure rate, creating immediate and long-term
dangers for civilians and friendly soldiers, Human Rights Watch
While use of
the weapon has not yet been confirmed by official U.S. military
sources, it is evident from television images and stories from
reporters embedded with U.S. units that U.S. forces are using
artillery projectiles and rockets containing large numbers of
submunitions, or cluster munitions. When these submunitions fail
to explode on impact as designed, they become hazardous explosive
"duds"-functioning like volatile, indiscriminate antipersonnel
Two U.S. Marines
were killed in separate incidents on March 27 and 28 after stepping
on unexploded cluster munitions delivered by artillery in southern
States should not be using these weapons," said Steve Goose, executive
director of the Arms Division of Human Rights Watch. "Iraqi civilians
will be paying the price with their lives and limbs for many years."
Watch has identified footage of the use of the Multiple Launch
Rocket System (MLRS) by artillery units of the 3rd Infantry Division.
This is a system that currently uses only submunition payloads.
The 1st Battalion of the 39th Field Artillery Regiment of the
division deploys at least eighteen MLRS launch units.
M26 warhead for the MLRS contains 644 M77 individual submunitions
(also called dual-purpose grenades). According to a Department
of Defense report submitted to the U.S. Congress in February 2000,
these submunitions have a failure rate of 16 percent. Thus, the
typical volley of twelve MLRS rockets would likely result in more
than 1,200 dud submunitions scattered randomly in a 120,000 to
240,000 square meter impact area.
Post reported on March 29 that the U.S. MLRS fired eighteen Army
Tactical Missile System (ATACMS) against suspected air defense
sites in support of a helicopter attack by units of the 101st
Airborne Division on March 28. The payload of an ATACMS is 300
or 950 M74 submunitions with a reported failure rate of two percent.
Watch has also seen video of U.S. Marine artillery units supporting
the 3rd Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion using 155mm artillery
firing projectiles at Iraqi positions; an embedded reporter described
"hundreds of grenades" being fired at the Iraqis. These were apparently
the M483A1 and M864 projectiles whose submunitions (dual-purpose
grenades) have a 14 percent dud rate. The M483A1 projectile contains
eighty-eight dual-purpose grenades, and the M864 projectile contains
seventy-two dual-purpose grenades.
It is not clear
whether air-dropped cluster bombs have been used in the air campaign.
Iraqi officials have repeatedly alleged use of cluster bombs by
U.S. and U.K. aircraft, but these reports have not been confirmed.
U.S. air forces used cluster bombs, notably the CBU-87 Combined
Effects Munition, extensively in the first Gulf War in 1991, in
Yugoslavia/Kosovo in 1999 and in Afghanistan in 2001 and 2002.
At least eighty
U.S. casualties during the 1991 Gulf War were attributed to cluster
munition duds. More than 4,000 civilians were killed or injured
by cluster munition duds after the end of the war.
Watch has called for a global moratorium on use of cluster munitions
until the humanitarian problems caused by the weapons are addressed.
Short of that commitment, Human Rights Watch has urged the United
States and others that may deploy cluster munitions in Iraq to
prohibit the use of any cluster munitions in attacks on or near
populated areas and to suspend use of cluster munitions that have
been tested and identified as producing high dud rates. If cluster
munitions are used, it is crucial that the U.S. record, report,
track, and mark known or suspected cluster munition strike areas
and preserve the information so it can be disseminated quickly
in clearance efforts.
States must rapidly provide extensive information and warnings
to civilian populations to protect them from cluster munition
duds," said Goose. "The United States now bears a special responsibility
to help clear these deadly remnants of war as quickly as possible."
of cluster munition duds will complicate the reconstruction of
Iraq as well as endangering civilians and peacekeepers, Goose
also extensively used antipersonnel landmines. For more background
on Iraq's mines and unexploded ordnance, please see http://www.hrw.org/campaigns/iraq/iraqmines1212.htm
information on War in Iraq, please see: http://www.hrw.org/campaigns/iraq
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