11, 1999 5:55 PM
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
CONTACT: Human Rights
(316) 2293-6742 (in the Netherlands)
Bill Arkin (802) 457-3426 (home) or (201) 583-5151 (at MSNBC in New Jersey)
Carroll Bogert (212) 216-1244 (in New York)
Use of Cluster Bombs Must Stop
- May 11 - Human Rights Watch today condemned NATO's use of cluster bombs in the
air campaign against the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. The submunitions inside
cluster bombs have a high failure rate and can leave unexploded ordnance across
wide areas, ready to detonate on contact.
"The duds that are left inside cluster bombs effectively turn into landmines,"
said Joost Hiltermann, director of the Arms Division of Human Rights Watch. "And
like antipersonnel landmines, they kill civilians even years after the conflict
has ended. NATO should stop using them immediately."
Because of the submunitions' appearance-the CBU-87 and RBL755 bomblets are bright
orange/yellow soda-can sized objects, while the ATACMS bomblets are bright baseball-sized
spheres-children are particularly drawn to the volatile live remnants.
A recent NATO airstrike on the airfield in Nis went off target, hitting a hospital
complex and adjoining civilian areas. On April 24, five children playing with
colorful unexploded submunitions were reported killed, and two injured, near Doganovic
in southern Kosovo.
In the short term, live submunitions pose a danger to civilians and refugees,
and impede their movement. In the long term, they inhibit agriculture and economic
recovery. The widespread use of cluster bombs can also pose a severe hazard to
friendly ground force operations, including peacekeeping forces, as happened to
international forces in the 1991 Gulf War.
Cluster bombs have an estimated 5 percent mechanical and fuse failure rate. For
Operation Allied Force in the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, the historical record
and testing experience would tend to indicate that for every single CBU-87 used,
there will be an average of some ten unexploded bomblets, and for every RBL755,
there will be an average of five unexploded bomblets.
It is possible that, if the bombing campaign continues, the U.S. Air Force may
start using the CBU-89 Gator "scatterable" mine system, which holds a mix of antitank
and antipersonnel landmines. The use of antipersonnel landmines, an inherently
indiscriminate weapon, is banned under the 1997 Mine Ban Treaty, which came into
force in March 1999. The United States has not signed the treaty, but all other
NATO members, except Turkey, have.
Human Rights Watch called on NATO to stop using cluster bombs and refrain from
using the CBU-89 Gator mine system.
"The U.S. may not have signed the landmines treaty, but it's still obliged to
carry out warfare according to international humanitarian law," said Hiltermann.
A briefing paper on cluster bombs, written by Human Rights Watch consultant William
Arkin, is attached. For the full text of the paper, with footnotes, please see
the Human Rights Watch website at http://www.hrw.org
Human Rights Watch is an international monitoring organization based in New York.
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