Cluster bomb use by India be condemned

August 4, 2019

The cluster ammunitions used by Indian army through artillery targeted civilian population in Neelum Valley across LoC in violation of the Geneva Convention and international law. The attack left two civilians, including a 4-year-old boy, dead and 11 others critically injured. Cluster bombs are actually a conglomeration of weapons. When released, they splinter into hundreds, even thousands, of bomblets that land over a wide area. The AJK government has warned people against touching or picking any familiar and unfamiliar devices or gadgets if found lying anywhere in the shelling-infested areas to avoid any danger to their lives. Previously, a number of casualties had also occurred when LoC residents, mostly young children, had tried to play or tamper with dud shells or bomblets out of ignorance, even though similar announcements were also made then. The military benefits of cluster munitions, however, do not justify the harm they cause to civilians. The weapons present two grave humanitarian problems. First, civilians all too often fall victim to cluster munitions during strikes. The large number of sub-munitions is widely dispersed, which creates a footprint deadly to all inside. Within that space, no sub-munition has the capability to distinguish between soldiers and civilians. In addition, the cluster munition canisters that carry the sub-munitions are usually unguided, so they can miss their mark and hit non-military objects. The inherent risks to civilian life and property are nearly unavoidable when cluster munitions are used in or near populated areas, a common occurrence in modern armed conflict. If cluster munitions are used in an area where combatants and civilians commingle, civilian casualties are almost assured. In every conflict involving cluster munition use that Human Rights Watch has investigated, the weapons have been used in areas where both combatants and civilians are present, resulting in loss of civilian life. Second, cluster munitions leave unexploded sub-munitions, or duds, that continue to kill or injure people after a conflict ends. The quantity of sub-munitions in each cluster munition, combined with design characteristics and environmental factors, means that some will always fail and become de facto landmines that can be set off later by unwitting civilians. Children are particularly common victims. The shape and sometimes color of sub-munitions attracts them because they are curious and believe the weapons are toys. Some models resemble balls while others have a ribbon, which makes a convenient handle for carrying or twirling. Unexploded sub-munitions also frequently cause casualties among farmers, who do not see them hidden in their fields and hit them with their plows. The duds have socioeconomic costs because they contaminate agricultural land, making it unfit for planting or harvesting. The international community must take serious notice of the sufferings inflicted on civilians by India.

The inherent risks to civilian life and property are nearly unavoidable when cluster munitions are used in or near populated areas, a common occurrence in modern armed conflict.