By Katrina Quick
LONDON, Aug 27 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Cluster bomb attacks and unexploded munitions killed or injured nearly 1,600 people in Syria in the past two years - 97 percent of them civilians - an international campaign group said on Wednesday.
Both South Sudan, the world's newest nation, and Ukraine also used cluster munitions in the first half of 2014, defying the 2008 treaty banning the production, stockpiling and use of the weapons, the Cluster Munition Coalition said in the report.
"Appallingly, last year in Syria there were more casualties and civilian suffering from cluster munitions than at any other time or place since Monitor reporting began," said Megan Burke of the Survivor Network Project, editor of the casualties and victim assistance chapter of the report.
The CMC launched the report shortly before the fifth meeting of states that have signed up to the treaty, which opens in San Jose, Costa Rica on Sept. 2.
The report said there were at least 1,584 casualties from cluster munition attacks and unexploded submunitions in Syria over the last two years, and that 97 percent of them were civilians, the highest rate ever recorded.
Two U.N. General Assembly resolutions condemned the Syrian government's use of cluster bombs in 2013, and a U.N. Security Council resolution in May 2014 expressed serious concern at their use by South Sudan.
The convention demanded that any remaining cluster munitions be eradicated within eight years. To date, 1.16 million cluster munitions have been destroyed by 22 countries, more than three-quarters of the weapons declared stockpiled under the convention banning cluster bombs.
More than 140 countries have condemned Syria's use of cluster munitions in statements and resolutions, including 51 states that have not yet joined the Convention, the report said. China, Russia and the United States are among nations that have not signed the treaty.
"It's not enough to protest civilian victims of cluster munitions-all states with a conscience should join the ban convention to ensure civilians are protected from harm, now and into the future," stated Mary Wareham, editor of the ban policy chapter of the report entitled Cluster Munition Monitor 2014.
(Editing by Tim Pearce)