Handicap International denounces use of cluster munitions in Syria
Handicap International today denounced the Syrian government’s use of cluster munitions in Maaret Al-Noomane, a town in northern Syria. This practice was recently confirmed by Human Rights Watch. The organisation first drew attention to the use of these weapons in Syria in July and October. Handicap International is extremely concerned by these latest developments and the recent upsurge in fighting in urban areas, which is having a serious impact on civilians. According to the organisation’s teams supplying humanitarian aid to Syrian refugees in Jordan and Lebanon, more and more people injured in the conflict, including many children, are arriving every day.
New victims of cluster munitions in Syria
Handicap International has been shocked by the use of cluster munitions in Syria. These weapons are banned under an international treaty that came into force in August 2010. According to Human Rights Watch, the weapons were used during bombing raids on the town of Maaret Al-Noomane on Sunday 25th November, killing at least 40 people, including 11 children, and injuring many others.
“Cluster munitions appear to have been used repeatedly and on a massive scale over the course of several months,” says Marion Libertucci, Handicap International’s Weapons Advocacy Manager. “Governments urgently need to put pressure on Syria to stop using these weapons.”
According to Handicap International, 94% of recorded victims of cluster munitions are civilians. The use of cluster munitions in densely populated areas therefore poses an unacceptable threat to the civilian population. These weapons are banned under the Convention on Cluster Munitions, which has been signed by 111 States around the world. The Convention bans the use, production, stockpiling and trade of these weapons. Handicap International played a key role in driving forward efforts to secure the Convention. Although Syria is not currently a State Party to the Convention, its actions mark a break with the practice adopted by other non-States Parties, which have refrained from using these weapons.
Fighting continues in heavily populated areas
Handicap International is alarmed by the continued fighting and shelling in heavily-populated areas, which continues to kill and maim civilians and violates the principle of distinction between combatants and civilians as codified in the Geneva Conventions. As a result of the conflict, many residential areas are scattered with explosive remnants of war, posing a constant threat to their inhabitants, even during breaks in the fighting.
The Geneva Conventions stipulate that States must never make civilians or civilian property the object of attack. They must strictly adhere to the definition of military objectives and fully respect the ban on the use of disproportionate force and indiscriminate attacks. They must also protect civilians caught up in the war zone. Handicap International is calling on the parties to the conflict to respect these rules and to end violence against civilians, including an immediate end to the use of cluster munitions.
Handicap International witnesses impact of the conflict
Handicap International is a daily witness to the impact of the conflict in Syria. The organisation’s teams, which are based close to the Syrian border in Lebanon and Jordan, are currently reporting the daily arrival of injured people from Syria. Many of the injured have only received basic treatment and include many children injured in the bombing, families who have lost their homes, women travelling alone with their children and isolated people.
Handicap International also runs risk education activities in Jordan on mines and explosive remnants of war and is looking into the possibility of intervening in affected areas of Syria.
About Handicap International
Co-winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, Handicap International is an international aid organisation working in situations of poverty and exclusion, conflict and disaster. Our activities include clearing landmines and unexploded ordnance, preventing mine-related accidents through education, assisting survivors with rehabilitation and inclusion and advocating for the universal recognition of the rights of people with disabilities. Handicap International is a co-founder of the International Campaign to Ban Landmines and the Cluster Munition Coalition.