Ukraine, adv. Verni: “Cluster bombs banned by the Oslo Convention, that’s why”

the head of the “Online Defense” Law Area: “Italy among the countries that have adhered to the ban”

Cluster munitions are prohibited by the Oslo Convention, to which Italy has also adhered. In the aftermath of the United States’ decision to supply cluster bombs to Ukraine, the lawyer Marco Valerio Verni, head of the ‘Online Defense’ Law Area, explains to Adnkronos the reasons that led many states to ban this type of ammunition and the weight, at an international level, of the US choice.

“The prohibition in general is enshrined in the 2008 Oslo Convention on cluster munitions, which prohibits the use, production, transfer and stockpiling of weapons and derives from the devastating effects that these devices can have, both in the immediate present, as well as in the future – observes the lawyer Verni – Let me explain: cluster bombs are weapons designed and used to hit people and vehicles, but also to destroy runways or power lines or, again, to release substances chemicals. They are generally dropped from aircraft (fighters, bombers or helicopters) or, sometimes, launched by means of artillery, rockets and guided missiles, and contain a certain number of submunitions which, upon explosion of the main device (cluster) , which occurs in the air, are dispersed, according to various systems, at a distance (even for very long range), then exploding in turn, when they come into contact with the ground, thus also causing the killing of numerous civilians, already immediately”.

“The problem, however, is that sometimes, indeed often, they do not explode, as denounced, moreover, by various international organizations, including, for example, the International Committee of the Red Cross (according to which as many as 40% of bombs released in some recent conflicts would not have exploded), thus remaining in the ground, or wherever it is – he continues – ending up constituting, as one can well imagine, a danger, on a par with real mines, for anyone who could they approach, not knowing of their existence, even in a very distant future from their unhooking and falling to the ground”. “With consequences that everyone can easily understand: that is, here too, indiscriminate killing or mutilation of people”, continues the lawyer according to whom, at the “regulatory level” the decision of the USA, which among other things has not adhered to the Oslo Convention, should not have “particular repercussions for NATO as a whole” but “at a political level, if we were to act consistently, I would think so”.

“In this latter respect, in fact, precisely by virtue of what has been said above, the US is allegedly delivering weapons banned, therefore, by a large part of the international community and, first of all, by the United Nations. The latter, already at the beginning of the Russian-Ukrainian conflict, had to condemn their possible use by the Russian Federation and have now expressed the same disappointment with the US decision”.

“Of course, as stated by some members of the Biden administration, cluster munitions for Ukraine will be carefully selected so that they have a limited error rate, referring to the percentage of sub-munitions carried by each shell that would remain unexploded – he specifies lawyer Verni – But it is evident that this certainly cannot be enough to justify the use of such a type of weapon, even if in response to their alleged use by the Russian forces. Indiscriminate attacks, including those using cluster bombs, are prohibited by international humanitarian law and one of the cardinal principles of this regulatory system is that if the enemy does not comply with what it establishes, this would certainly not authorize all the other parties cause to do the same”.

“How could Italy or France or Germany or Spain politically justify such a situation? And Ukraine itself, which has rightly denounced numerous violations of the law of war, especially concerning the indiscriminate killing of civilians – asks the head of the ‘Online Defense’ Law Area – how could it coherently use this type of weapon, to arrived on its own territory? Without considering the risk of escalation that could ensue,” he continues.

As far as Italy is concerned, “it is among the 164 signatory countries of the Convention on cluster munitions, which prohibits the use, production, transfer and stockpiling of weapons. Just as there are 36 countries belonging to the UN that have not adhered to the Convention, including the USA, Ukraine and Russia (in addition to Israel, China, India, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia, just to mention other States, albeit of direct interest or indirect, in the current international scenario, also in reference to the Russian-Ukrainian theater.So, by virtue of this – concludes the lawyer – I feel I can exclude that Italy may, in the first person, one day send weapons of such done. Also because, from a national point of view, our country, which has never been a producer of cluster munitions, completed the destruction of the equipment held by its Armed Forces in 2015″.

“But not only that: in the past years, Italy has invested significantly in assistance programs that have focused in particular on the clearance of mines and unexploded ordnance, including cluster munitions, the destruction of existing deposits and the assistance to victims (among the countries that have benefited from this support are Afghanistan, Somalia, Libya and the Gaza Strip).The same Convention -concludes Verni- was ratified by us in 2011, when he was Undersecretary of Defense , the one who later became its current minister, i.e. Guido Crosetto. In short, given all this, it would be a huge contradiction if, suddenly, you changed your mind, so to speak”.