Cluster munitions are among the most harmful weapons to civilians, as they disperse bomblets indiscriminately across a wide area that often fail to explode on initial impact, leaving duds that litter communities and endanger civilians, especially children, decades after a conflict ends.
Cluster munitions have been used repeatedly by the Russian military since its invasion in February of 2022, causing hundreds of civilian casualties and damaging civilian objects, including homes, hospitals, and schools. The Ukrainian military has also used cluster munitions on multiple occasions, causing civilian casualties.
“We strongly condemn the use of cluster munitions by all parties in the war in Ukraine and call for the immediate end to the use of these horrific weapons anywhere in the world,” said Sera Koulabdara, Chair of the U.S. Cluster Munition Coalitions and CEO of Legacies of War.
The decision to transfer cluster munitions disrupts global consensus against them. These weapons have a persistent record of high failure rates. They have claimed thousands of civilian casualties during and after in numerous wars since the United States’ widespread use in Southeast Asia. A total of 123 countries have prohibited cluster munitions by signing or ratifying the Convention on Cluster Munitions, which bans the use, production, transfer, and stockpiling of these deadly weapons. That includes the vast majority of NATO member states.
Unfortunately, the United States, Ukraine, and Russia are currently outliers and are not party to this treaty. Beyond making the United States a global outlier, acting in contradiction to partner nations’ and NATO allies’ express ban on and statements against the transfer and use of these weapons could hurt the U.S.’ ability to forge and maintain coalitions that have been so crucial to supporting Ukraine, and undermines the United States’ ability to criticize other governments who use them. It would also harm efforts to promote other arms control agreements.
Cluster munitions are indiscriminate weapons that blanket large areas, haphazardly contaminating land and inflicting harm disproportionately on civilians. They are not a “winning weapon” and will only cause greater suffering, today and for decades to come. These weapons will also severely hamper any efforts to rebuild Ukraine in the future.
The United States must not be complicit in the use of these devastating and indiscriminate weapons. The USCMC is appalled by the decision by President Biden to transfer these banned weapons, and urges that he reconsider given the significant humanitarian, human rights, and political risks involved. Further, we reiterate our calls for the United States to end the use, production, transfer, and stockpiling of cluster munitions, to swiftly join the Convention on Cluster Munitions, and to encourage its partners to do the same.
The U.S. Cluster Munition Coalition is a coalition of non-governmental organizations working to achieve a comprehensive U.S. ban on cluster munitions as well as U.S. accession to the 2008 Convention on Cluster Munitions, which more than 120 nations have joined. Our coalition also calls for sustained U.S. government financial support for the clearance of cluster munition remnants and assistance for victims of the weapons.
Experts for Contact:
Sera Koulabdara email@example.com Chair, U.S. Cluster Munition Coalition and CEO, Legacies of War
Titus Peachey firstname.lastname@example.org Steering Committee Member, U.S. Cluster Munition Coalition and Emeritus Board Chair, Legacies of War
Daryl G. Kimball email@example.com Executive Director, Arms Control Association
Mary Wareham firstname.lastname@example.org Acting Arms Director, Human Rights Watch
Daniel Balson email@example.com Advocacy Director, Europe & Central Asia, Amnesty International USA
Jeff Meer, firstname.lastname@example.org U.S. Executive Director, Humanity & Inclusion