What are cluster bombs and why are they controversial?

<span>Photograph: Anatolii Stepanov/AFP/Getty Images</span>” src=”https://s.yimg.com/ny/api/res/1.2/MHDba8p0UK49LxWp9saIeA–/YXBwaWQ9aGlnaGxhbmRlcjt3PTcwNTtoPTQyMw–/https://media.zenfs.com/en/the_guardian_765/72b15477376d26a61cc 813ef3a98fb97″ data-src= “https://s.yimg.com/ny/api/res/1.2/MHDba8p0UK49LxWp9saIeA–/YXBwaWQ9aGlnaGxhbmRlcjt3PTcwNTtoPTQyMw–/https://media.zenfs.com/en/the_guardian_765/72b15477376d26a61cc813ef 3a98fb97″/><button class=

Photograph: Anatolii Stepanov/AFP/Getty Images

The US has confirmed it will supply cluster munitions to Ukraine, following calls from human rights groups for Kyiv and Moscow to stop using the controversial weapons .

What is a cluster bomb?

A cluster bomb is a weapon that breaks up in the air and releases multiple explosive submunitions or “bomblets” over a wide area. They can be delivered by aircraft, artillery and missiles, according to the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC).

How dangerous are they?

Bombs are designed to explode on hitting the ground and anyone in this area is very likely to be killed or seriously injured. Beyond the initial ammo damage on impact, many bombs do not explode immediately. According to the ICRC, up to 40% of bombs have failed to explode in some recent conflicts.

As a result, cluster bombs, like landmines, pose a risk to civilians long after they have been used. Unexploded ordnance from cluster bombs can kill and maim people years or even decades after the ordnance is fired.

Related: Russia uses cluster bombs to kill Ukrainian civilians, analysis finds

Human rights groups say the use of cluster bombs in populated areas is a violation of international humanitarian law as they cause wanton destruction. Sixty percent of cluster bomb victims are people injured in daily activities, according to Reuters. A third of all recorded cluster munition victims are children.

More than 120 countries have signed the Convention on Cluster Munitions, which prohibits the use, production, transfer and stockpiling of weapons. Russia, Ukraine and the United States have all refused to sign the treaty. Since the convention was adopted in 2008, 99% of global stockpiles have been destroyed, according to the Cluster Munition Coalition.

Where have they been used?

The weapons were first used during World War II and at least 15 countries used them in the years since, according to Reuters. They include Eritrea, Ethiopia, France, Israel, Morocco, the Netherlands, Britain, Russia and the United States.

The United States dropped approximately 260 million cluster munitions in Laos between 1964 and 1973. So far, less than 400,000 – or 0.47% – have been disposed of and at least 11,000 people have been killed, according to Reuters.

Russian troops have used cluster munitions in populated areas of Ukraine, according to a Guardian study, resulting in the deaths of dozens of civilians. Ukraine has also used them in its efforts to retake territory occupied by Russia, according to Human Rights Watch.

Why does Ukraine want it?

Kiev pushed for cluster bombs, arguing that the weapons would help in its counteroffensive by allowing its troops to target entrenched Russian positions and overcome its manpower and artillery disadvantage.

Until recently, Washington had resisted pleas from kyiv, citing concerns about the use of weapons and saying they were not needed. However, US officials have recently signaled a change, and a senior Pentagon official said last month that the US military believes cluster munitions “would be useful, especially against dug-in Russian positions.”

But rights groups have called on Russia and Ukraine to stop using cluster bombs and urged the United States not to supply the “inherently indiscriminate” munitions to Kiev. “Cluster munitions used by Russia and Ukraine are killing civilians now and will continue to do so for many years to come,” said Mary Wareham, acting director of armaments at Human Rights Watch. “Both sides should immediately stop using them and not try to get more of these indiscriminate weapons.”

US officials claimed that all munitions supplied to Ukraine would have a reduced “misfire rate”, meaning there would be far fewer unexploded rounds that could later lead to the unintentional death of civilians.

Leave a Comment