President Mikhail Saakashvili
7 Ingorokva Street
3 September 2008
Dear President Saakashvili,
We are writing to express our grave concern about Georgia’s use of cluster munitions.
In a letter to Human Rights Watch, the Georgian Ministry of Defence confirmed its use of M85 cluster submunitions, delivered by a GRADLAR multiple launch rocket system, and noted that cluster munitions ‘were never used against civilians, civilian targets, and civilian populated or nearby areas’. Over 100 nations have agreed to ban cluster munitions because they kill and injure civilians both during strikes and afterward. As many cluster munitions fail to explode on impact, they also pose a lethal risk to civilians long after a conflict ends.
Georgia used the M85 cluster submunition, which was also used in Lebanon two years ago, where it was found to have at least a 10% failure rate. Over 200 civilians have been killed or injured by cluster munitions in Lebanon and, despite dedicated clearance work, civilians are still at risk from cluster munitions two years after the conflict ended. We urge the government of Georgia to take immediate steps to prevent civilian casualties by carrying out risk education among the local populations and aiding with clearance work.
We call on the Georgian government to immediately renounce cluster munitions and join the Convention on Cluster Munitions when it opens for signature in Oslo, Norway on 3 December 2008.
This agreement adopted on 30 May 2008 by 107 nations prohibits clusters munitions, provides groundbreaking assistance to survivors and affected communities and requires destruction of existing stocks within a strict timeframe. The adoption of this international treaty acknowledges the widespread damage and devastation cluster munitions cause to civilians and communities and the urgent need to address this. The majority of the world’s nations, including most past users and current stockpilers, are expected to sign the Convention. Georgia’s signature would give a clear signal that it is committed to protecting civilians from the effects of armed conflict and that the Convention on Cluster Munitions is an important instrument to achieve this.
We welcome a response from the government of Georgia outlining steps being taken to prevent casualties and indicating its intention to sign the Convention on Cluster Munitions.