4 September 2015, NewsDiffs: Report Notes Use of Cluster Bombs (NYT), Change Log
3 September 2015, Intercept: NYT Claims U.S. Abides by Cluster Bomb Treaty: The Exact Opposite of Reality
SEPT. 3, 2015
Banned Cluster Bombs Were Used in Five Countries, Report Says
By RICK GLADSTONE
Cluster bombs, the widely outlawed munitions that kill and maim indiscriminately, were used this year in five countries, none of which have yet signed the treaty banning the weapons, a monitoring organization reported on Thursday.
The organization, the Cluster Munition Coalition,  said in its annual report that use of the bombs had been documented in armed conflicts in Libya, Sudan, Syria, Ukraine and Yemen.
The use of these weapons was criticized by all 117 countries that have joined the treaty, which took effect five years ago. Their use was also criticized by a number of others that have not yet joined the treaty but appear to have abided by its provisions.
"The new use of cluster munitions by a handful of armed forces outside the ban has been met with swift and strong condemnations, showing the stigma against their use is growing stronger," said Mary Wareham, advocacy director of the arms division of Human Rights Watch and an editor of the annual report.
The treaty prohibits all use of cluster munitions  and sets deadlines for the destruction of stockpiles and the clearance of areas contaminated by unexploded cluster bomblets, which can be deadly if disturbed. The treaty also provides for assistance to victims of cluster bombs.
The United States, which is among the countries that have not signed the treaty, still produces and exports cluster munitions. In a telephone interview, Ms. Wareham said that although the United States had sharply reduced its supply of cluster munitions, at least three different types of American-made cluster munitions had been used by Saudi-led forces this year in the Yemen conflict.
"The United States reserves the right to use, transfer and stockpile the munitions, unfortunately, so we cannot say they abide by its provisions," she said.
While American officials have expressed concern about the use of cluster munitions in the conflicts in Syria, Ukraine and Sudan, they have been more ambiguous about their use in Yemen. Asked at a daily press briefing on Aug. 20  about the American position, the State Department spokesman, John Kirby, said he was "aware of reports that the Saudis have used cluster munitions," and that the United States had discussed these reports with the Saudis, but he did not confirm or deny that American-supplied cluster weapons had been used.
Mr. Kirby also said the United States had urged all sides in the conflict, "including the Saudis, to take proactive measures to minimize harm to civilians."
The Cluster Munitions Coalition report said cluster bombs were dropped on two locations in Libya this year, but there was no clarity on who was responsible. It said Sudan's armed forces dropped cluster bombs in South Kordofan Province in the first half of the year.
Syria's government, the report said, has been dropping cluster bombs since mid-2012, and later began launching rockets with cluster warheads. The report also said Islamic State militants in Syria used cluster rockets in the second half of 2014.
The report said government forces and Russian-backed insurgents in eastern Ukraine used cluster rockets on each other in attacks that began last year, but use of these weapons appeared to stop in February after a cease-fire was declared.
The report said Saudi Arabia, and possibly other members of a Saudi-led coalition that has been bombing Yemen's Houthi rebels since March, have used American-made cluster munitions in that conflict.
Cluster munitions can be dropped by aircraft or fired by artillery or rocket systems. They usually explode in the air, catapulting dozens and sometimes hundreds of smaller bomblets over a wide area. They are designed to kill or wound anyone in their path.
The bomblets can also fail to explode on initial impact and effectively become as dangerous as land mines, detonating when touched or handled by the unwary.
Most victims of cluster munitions are civilians, half of them children, the Cluster Munition Coalition and other disarmament activists say. According to the 2015 report, the estimated global casualties to date exceed 55,000.
Most of the countries that have joined the treaty are planning to send delegates to the first high-level review conference on progress in achieving its aims, scheduled to start on Monday in Dubrovnik, Croatia.
Correction: September 3, 2015
An earlier version of this article misstated the position of the United States regarding the treaty banning cluster munitions. According to the Cluster Munition Coalition, while the United States has reduced its supply of cluster munitions, it reserves the right to use, transfer and stockpile them. The United States is not among the countries that abide by the treaty's provisions even though they have not joined the treaty.