Jakarta: Lethal cluster munitions are still being used in old and new conflicts around the world, from Syria to Libya, to Nagorno-Karabakh, a UN-backed civil society report said on Wednesday.
Over the last decade, the hair-trigger devices have caused more than 4,300 recorded casualties in 20 countries, according to the Cluster Munition Monitor 2020, although it said that the true number is likely much higher.
Between August 2010 and July 2020, cluster munitions were deployed in seven countries that have not signed the global disarmament treaty banning them: Cambodia, Libya, South Sudan, Sudan, Syria, Ukraine, and Yemen.
According to the Monitor, Syria has consistently accounted for more than 80 per cent of all cluster munition casualties worldwide, with children making up around four in 10 of all victims.
Researchers also identified the lethal use of the weapons in Libya last year, and their use by both Armenia and Azerbaijan, in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.
"The sustained use of banned cluster munitions in Syria and new use in Libya and Nagorno-Karabakh, is unacceptable," said Marion Loddo, editorial manager of the Monitor, in a press release on Wednesday.
"It was imperative for the 110 States that have joined the global treaty banning cluster munitions to speak out to condemn the civilian death toll and the threat to lives and livelihoods from areas that are still contaminated with the weapons," Loddo added.
Allegations of new cluster munition use in Yemen and in the contested region of Kashmir on the India-Pakistan border were also examined, but no conclusive determination was possible, the Monitor said.
Despite concerns that a total of 286 new cluster munition casualties were recorded in 2019 - a 92 per cent increase on 2018, linked mainly to attacks in Syria - it remains far below the annual total of 971 casualties recorded in 2016, the Monitor said.
Cluster munitions are released either from the air or launched from the ground in a canister containing hundreds of bomblets which scatter indiscriminately over wide areas.
They are not aimed at a specific target and up to 40 per cent of the explosive devices fail to detonate initially, with devastating results for anyone who comes across them.
The release of the report comes as States Parties to the convention gather virtually to discuss further steps on bringing more States onboard with the treaty to ban cluster munitions, which entered into force in 2010.