By Megan Burke, Coordinator, Survivor Network Project, Victim Assistance Editor, the Monitor ICBL-CMC.
On 4 April, a Magistrate’s court in Israel awarded approximately €18,000 to a man severely injured by a cluster munition remnant in 2003. The court found that the Israeli state had failed to adequately protect the civilian from known dangers of what was once a firing range. The award included compensation for pain and suffering as well as for lost income as a result of a permanent disability.
This ruling follows two other recent cases in which courts ruled in favor of the rights of victims of cluster munitions.
In November 2012, the Montenegrin court system awarded €85,000 in compensation for pain and suffering to the family members of a boy who was killed by a cluster submunition in 1999. The, 17-year-old victim was killed by the submunition in a field that had been bombed the night before. The author of the report Yellow Killers and Monitor researcher Jelena Vicentic obtained the original court papers from the case that found a failure to “warn the citizens about the immediate danger to life and safety and to properly control the area in the given circumstances”
Also in November of last year, the Inter-American Court concluded its deliberations in the case known as the “Massacre of Santo Domingo” vs. Colombia. In its judgment, it found that Colombia violated the right to life of 17 civilians who died (including 6 children) and 27 others who were injured (including 9 children) following its use of cluster munitions when bombing a populated area of the country in 1998. The court also recognized other violations such as the right to special protection for children, the right to private property and the right to circulation and residency, since many residents of Santo Domingo were forced to leave their homes following the bombing.
While many of the victims had already received “no fault” compensation packages from the state, the court ordered the State to provide comprehensive reparations to the victims by publically acknowledging the incident, recognizing the suffering of the victims and ensuring comprehensive health and rehabilitative care for those victims who were injured in the bombing, as well as providing financial compensation in some cases.
These recent court decisions reinforce the norm that states hold a responsibility to protect their people from the effects of cluster munitions and their deadly remnants. Regardless of who used the weapon, cluster munition victims’ rights and needs must be addressed. When states fail to protect, people have a right to compensation. The rights and needs of victims are also recognized within the Convention on Cluster Munitions, where assistance to victims of these weapons is an obligation. Victim assistance provisions within this Convention are the most comprehensive of any disarmament treaty and set the highest standard to be sure that these needs are met.