Human Rights Watch warns US against sending cluster munitions to Ukraine

6 Jul, 2023 14:58 / Updated 11 months ago
This “would inevitably cause long-term suffering for civilians,” the NGO says

Human Rights Watch (HRW) has warned the US against supplying Ukraine with cluster munitions which have been banned in more than 100 countries due to the severe risk they pose to civilian populations.

In a statement released on Thursday, the NGO sounded the alarm over media reports that the US government is considering whether to approve deliveries of the deadly weapons, which Kiev has been requesting for months. The New York Times reported on Thursday, citing a senior White House source, that Washington was expected to greenlight the move. CBS said on Wednesday that the US could make a decision as early as this week.

A reporter from NPR wrote on Twitter that it could be done as soon as Thursday.

“Transferring these weapons would inevitably cause long-term suffering for civilians and undermine the international opprobrium of their use,” HRW stated.

Cluster munitions are banned in more than 100 countries because, when they explode, they release small bomblets over a wide area. Some of these fail to detonate on impact, posing serious risks to civilians for many years after the fighting is over. The US has not joined the ban but has prohibited exports of this ammunition with a ‘dud’ rate of more than 1%. The restriction could be lifted by a waiver from US President Joe Biden.

Despite widespread concerns about the humanitarian impact of cluster munitions, in late June, Laura Cooper, US deputy assistant secretary of defense, said they “would be useful” against strong Russian defensive positions. 

According to a Politico report in the same month, this assessment was also shared by a number of US officials who believe that those arms would make Ukraine’s ongoing counteroffensive – which Moscow says has failed to gain any ground – more successful. 

In late March, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov described calls to supply Kiev with the controversial munitions as dangerous, warning that those shipments may lead to an escalation in the Ukraine conflict.