Letter to Russia

Russian Embassy and Consulate
Drammensveien 74, 0244 Oslo

We are writing to express our grave concern about the Russian Federation’s use of cluster munitions in Georgia in the towns of Ruisi and Gori, killing 11 civilians and injuring many more.

We call on the Russian government immediately to stop using cluster munitions and to provide all possible assistance to facilitate risk education and clearance work in order to prevent more civilian casualties. As Russia recognised in a statement on 6 June 2008, cluster munitions are particularly dangerous to civilians when used in populated areas, as they have been in Georgia. As many cluster bombs fail to explode on impact they also pose a lethal risk to civilians long after a conflict ends. Without appropriate awareness of the risk posed by unexploded submunitions the number of cluster munition casualties in Georgia is likely to rise.

Russia recently ratified Protocol V of the Convention on Convention Weapons which obliges Russia to provide data on use of all explosive ordnance. Article 4.2 of Protocol V states that “High Contracting Parties and parties to an armed conflict which have used or abandoned explosive ordnance which may have become explosive remnants of war shall, without delay after the cessation of active hostilities and as far as practicable, subject to these parties’ legitimate security, make available such information to the party or parties in control of the affected area…”.

Just three months ago 107 nations agreed to an international treaty that bans clusters munitions and provides for assistance to survivors and affected communities, recognising the widespread damage and devastation cluster munitions cause to civilians and communities and urgent need to address this. The majority of the world’s nations, including most past users and current stockpilers will sign the Convention on Cluster Munitions (CCM) when it opens for signature on 3 December 2008. Russia’s use of cluster bombs is out of step with the efforts of the international community to protect civilians from the effects of these indiscriminate weapons.

Russia has condemned the use of cluster munitions by other nations, noting the particular danger of using them in populated areas. Russia has also highlighted its own work to clear cluster munitions in Serbia. Russian use of cluster munitions in populated areas in Georgia is clearly contradictory to those statements.

While some Russian officials have denied any use of cluster munitions, researchers from Human Rights Watch have gathered conclusive photographic evidence in addition to testimonies from numerous victims, doctors and military personnel. We expect that further evidence of cluster munition use will emerge in the coming days. Unfortunately we expect that this evidence will be accompanied by further deaths and injuries from these weapons.

We ask that the Russian Federation commit immediately to no further use of cluster munitions and take urgent action to lessen the danger to civilians from submunition duds from earlier strikes.

Mette Eliseussen
Ban Bus