Mines Action Canada Concerned by US Decision to Transfer Banned Cluster Munitions to Ukraine

(Ottawa, 7 July, 2023) –Mines Action Canada, a member of the Cluster Munition Coalition, is appalled by the United States’ plans to transfer banned cluster munitions to Ukraine, as reported today in the New York Times. The transfer of the weapon, prohibited under the 2008 Convention on Cluster Munitions, follows repeated requests by Ukrainian officials for cluster munitions to counter the Russian invasion.

Since the beginning of its invasion of Ukraine in February, Russia has used cluster munitions extensively, causing civilian harm, damaging civilian infrastructure, and contaminating agricultural land. Ukrainian forces have used cluster munitions on several occasions in the war according to the United Nations, Human Rights Watch and other reporting. Russia, Ukraine and the United States remain outside of the Convention on Cluster Munitions.

“The Biden administration’s decision to transfer cluster munitions will contribute to the terrible casualties being suffered by Ukrainian civilians both immediately and for years to come. Russia and Ukraine’s use of cluster munitions is adding to Ukraine’s already massive contamination from explosive remnants and landmines,” said Paul Hannon, International Campaign to Ban Landmines and Cluster Munition Coalition Governance Board Vice Chair.

The exceptional move was authorized by a presidential waiver allowing the US to transfer cluster munitions that have a greater than one percent unexploded ordnance rate.

States Parties to the Convention on Cluster Munitions, like Canada, should oppose any transfer and use of the weapon, and urge Russia and Ukraine to not use cluster munitions due to the foreseeable harm to civilians.

Cluster munitions are delivered by artillery, rockets, missiles, and aircraft. They open in mid-air and disperse dozens or hundreds of submunitions, also called bomblets, over a wide area. Cluster munitions not only kill at time of impact, they also leave a lethal trail of unexploded ordnance threatening lives for years to come.

“The humanitarian harm caused by cluster munitions is undeniable. The experience of other militaries also shows that cluster munitions pose a threat to Ukrainian soldiers who will be forced to advance through territory contaminated with failed submunitions,” said Mines Action Canada’s Executive Director, Erin Hunt. “Choosing a weapon that is proven to kill civilians and prevent displaced persons from coming home will not help win the peace.”

Since the Russian invasion in February 2022, Mines Action Canada has consistently and successfully advocated for Canadian support to Ukrainian efforts to clear unexploded ordnance and landmines from their territory. Adding more cluster munitions to the deadly contamination in Ukraine will make the process of making farmland and communities safe much more difficult.

Mines Action Canada and the Cluster Munition Coalition call for an immediate halt to transfers of the internationally banned weapon, and urges the United States, as well as Russia and Ukraine, to join the Cluster Munition Convention as soon as possible to guarantee protection of civilians and respect for international humanitarian law.

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To arrange interviews please contact: Erin Hunt, Executive Director, Mines Action Canada, +1 236 638-8188, erin [at] minesactioncanada [dot] org (Victoria, BC)

About Mines Action Canada

Mines Action Canada is Canada’s humanitarian disarmament campaign and a co-founder of the Cluster Munition Coalition. MAC envisions a world in which individual and communal rights and dignities are no longer ravaged by the devastating impact of armed conflict.