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The U.S. has not signed the convention, which prohibits the use, sale, and transfer of cluster bombs. (Photo: mary wareham/flickr/cc)

Last US Cluster Bomb Maker Shuts Down, But the Munitions Still in Use Worldwide

Cluster bombs in Yemen and Syria are causing 'unacceptable human suffering and deserve a strong response,' new report says

Nadia Prupis

The last remaining U.S. cluster bomb maker has closed up shop, citing "regulatory scrutiny and reduced orders for the internationally banned munition," Foreign Policy reports.

Rhode Island-based Textron Systems made the announcement just months after the Obama administration blocked the transfer of a CBU-105 shipment to Saudi Arabia. Human rights groups had been pressuring the U.S. government to take action amid evidence that the Saudi-led coalition had used cluster bombs in Yemen, possibly hurting and killing civilians.

Human Rights Watch (HRW) spokesperson Mary Wareham told Foreign Policy, "Textron was the last U.S. manufacturer of cluster munitions, so this decision now clears the path for the administration and Congress to work together to permanently end U.S. production, transfer, and use of cluster munitions."

Now there is even more support for that call. On Thursday, a coalition of human rights groups known as the Cluster Munition Coalition (CMC), founded by HRW, published a report which found that cluster bombs in Yemen and Syria are causing "unacceptable human suffering and deserve a strong response."

"More countries are endorsing the ban on cluster munition use enshrined in the Convention on Cluster Munitions," Wareham said in a press release (pdf) for the report. "All countries concerned by the near-daily reports of cluster munition attacks in Syria should call for an immediate end to the use and encourage the users to embrace the international ban on these weapons."

Casualties from cluster bomb use in 2015 were recorded in Syria, Yemen, and Ukraine, while casualties from the remains of the weapons—which operate by splintering into mini-bombs, or "bomblets," that can detonate long after a battle has ceased, much like landmines—were recorded in those three countries as well as Afghanistan, Cambodia, Chad, Lebanon, Laos, and the regions of Nagorno-Karabakh and Western Sahara.

Of those casualties, the report found, 97 percent were civilians.

Although the Obama administration banned the transfer of cluster bombs to Saudi Arabia this year, the U.S. has not signed the 2008 convention, which prohibits the use, sale, and transfer of the weapons and requires provision of victim assistance and the destruction of cluster bomb stockpiles within eight years.

"Countries that have yet to ban cluster munitions should revisit their position and stand in solidarity with victims of these weapons by making a commitment to join the international treaty," Wareham continued. "The question is not why, but why not join the sole international instrument specifically dedicated to ending the suffering caused by these weapons."

Jeff Abramson, coordinator of the Landmine and Cluster Munition Monitor initiative, added that "countries are making progress" in implementing the convention, but that "more resources and better use of existing ones are needed" to ensure safety for residents and aid to survivors.

And while the U.S. may have officially stopped cluster bomb production, American banks are still major financiers of companies that manufacture them.

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