Internationally-banned cluster bombs had been used in Libya in the last four months warned Human Rights Watch on Sunday, as fighting between the country’s rival governments intensified.
The global watchdog said “credible” evidence showed the use of the indiscriminate munitions in at least two locations since December 2014.
“Phone interviews with witnesses and photographic evidence reviewed by Human Rights Watch indicate that remnants of RBK-250 PTAB 2.5M cluster bombs were found at Bin Jawad in February 2015 and at Sirte in March,” the group wrote in a Sunday statement.
If confirmed it would be the first use of the banned munitions since they were deployed by toppled president Muammar Gaddafi during the 2011 NATO-backed revolution.
The New-York based group said good condition of paint on the bomb casings and the lack of extensive weathering indicated they were from a recent attack, as the remnants showed little wear and tear.
“It is not possible to determine responsibility on the basis of available evidence,” said HRW, adding that the Libyan air force had recently bombed both locations but denied the use of cluster bombs.
“While the air strikes continue every day against militias, the Libyan army has access to only traditional, heavy munitions, such as what was used during the Second World War,” Air Force Chief Brigadier General Sager al-Jarrushi told HRW.
“We have no cluster munitions,” he added.
Chief of Staff spokesperson Ahmed al-Mismari said the report referenced an area that had been bombed by both their fighter jets and aircraft belonging to Libya Dawn, the rival administration anchored Tripoli.
HRW urged Libyan authorities to sign a 2008 Convention on Cluster Munitions (CCM) banning their use. Most nations have barred the weapons due to their indiscriminate nature and the harm they pose to civilians, the watchdog added.
“The use of cluster munitions in populated areas, such as Sirte, violates the laws of war,” said Steve Goose, arms director at Human Rights Watch and chair of the Cluster Munition Coalition. “The new evidence of cluster munitions use in Libya is highly disturbing.”
The group called on the authorities to secure and destroy any further stocks.