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.
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.