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Sri Lanka

Last Updated: 30 July 2012

Cluster Munition Ban Policy

The Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka has not acceded to the Convention on Cluster Munitions.

Sri Lanka has never made a public statement on its policy toward joining the Convention on Cluster Munitions. In September 2010, the Ministry of Economic Development published a plan stating that it would “advocate for a ban of landmines and cluster munitions,” but it is not known to have done so.[1] On 6 July 2011, the Sri Lanka Campaign to Ban Landmines (SLCBL) discussed the need for Sri Lanka to join the Convention on Cluster Munitions with the Secretary of the Ministry for External Affairs, Karunatilaka Amunugama, who committed to discuss the convention with the Ministry of Defence.

Sri Lanka participated in one meeting of the Oslo Process that created the Convention on Cluster Munitions (Vienna in December 2007).

Since 2008, Sri Lanka has shown limited interest in the ban convention. It attended a regional meeting on cluster munitions in November 2009 in Bali, Indonesia. Sri Lanka did not participate in any meetings on cluster munitions during 2010. It attended the Second Meeting of States Parties to the Convention on Cluster Munitions in Beirut, Lebanon in September 2011 as an observer, but did not make any statements.

Sri Lanka is not a party to the Mine Ban Treaty.

Convention on Conventional Weapons

Sri Lanka is a party to the Convention on Conventional Weapons (CCW). Sri Lanka attended the CCW’s Fourth Review Conference in Geneva in November 2011 but did not comment on the chair’s draft text of the proposed CCW protocol on cluster munitions.

The Review Conference ended without reaching agreement on the draft protocol and with no official proposals to continue negotiations in 2012, thus marking the end of the CCW’s work on cluster munitions.

Use, production, transfer, and stockpiling

There were media reports in 2008 and 2009 of Sri Lanka using cluster munitions against the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam in the final phases of the war, but Sri Lanka has strongly denied the claims.[2]

The Sri Lankan government’s Media Center for National Security issued the following statement on its website in February 2009: “The Government wishes to clarify that the Sri Lanka army do not use these cluster bombs nor do they have facilities to use them.”[3] The Ministry of Defence website posted a statement saying Sri Lanka never fired cluster munitions and never brought them into the country.[4] In February 2009, a military spokesperson was quoted stating, “We don’t have the facility to fire cluster munitions. We don’t have these weapons.”[5]

A March 2011 report by a UN panel of experts on Sri Lanka noted the government’s denial of use of the weapon and said that it was unable to reach a conclusion on the credibility of the allegation of use of cluster munitions by Sri Lanka.[6]

More recently, in April 2012, the Associated Press quoted a UNDP mine action advisor as reportedly stating in an internal document that deminers had encountered submunitions in the Puthukkudiyiruppu area of northeastern Sri Lanka.[7] This led to renewed allegations about use of cluster munitions by the government during the conflict. The government of Sri Lanka again strongly denied the allegation. The government’s Media Center for National Security said, “The rehashed allegation in international media that the Sri Lankan Armed Forces used cluster munitions during the Humanitarian Operations is baseless. It is a repetition of similar allegations that were made earlier on several occasions and is not based on any facts.”[8] The UN has made no public comment to clarify the matter.

Sri Lanka has said in the past that not only does it deny using cluster munitions, but also that it does not even possess any cluster munitions.[9] However Sri Lanka does possess both aircraft and rocket launchers capable of deploying cluster munitions.


[1] Ministry of Economic Development, “The National Strategy for Mine Action in Sri Lanka,” September 2010, http://bit.ly/Kq8gm9.

[2] See Human Rights Watch and Landmine Action, Banning Cluster Muntions: Government Policy and Practice (Ottawa: Mines Action Canada, May 2009), p. 242-243. In October 2009, Sri Lankan Army Commander Lieutenant General J. Jayasuriya stated, “Where the cluster munitions are concerned, I wish to categorically state that such inhumane weapons have never, and will never be used by the Sri Lankan Armed Forces.” Keynote address by Lt.-Gen. Jayasuriya, Sri Lankan Army, International Law on Landmines and Explosive Remnants of War Seminar, Colombo, 27 October 2009. The text of the address was included in “Flow of arms to terrorists must stop,” Daily News, 28 October 2009, www.dailynews.lk.

[3] Media Center for National Security, “Government denies the attack on Pudukuduerippu hospital or using cluster bombs,” 4 February 2009, www.nationalsecurity.lk.

[4] Walter Jayawardhana, “UN Spokesman Accepts Sri Lanka Never Had Cluster Bombs,” Ministry of Defence, 5 February 2009, www.defence.lk.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Report of the Secretary General’s Panel of Experts on Accountability in Sri Lanka, 31 March 2011, p. 47 (Section G, paras 168–169).

[7] See Ravi Nessman, “UN Finds Cluster Bombs in Sri Lanka,” Associated Press (New Delhi), 26 April 2012, http://abcn.ws/KAcyn4; and Nessman, “Witness: Man hit by cluster bomb in Sri Lanka war,” Associated Press (New Delhi), 27 April 2012, http://www.huffingtonpost.com/huff-wires/20120427/as-sri-lanka-cluster-munitions/.

[8] Ministry of Defence and Urban Development, “Ministry of Defence denies use of cluster munitions by security forces,” 28 April 2012, http://bit.ly/LIYM1p.

[9] ICBL meeting with Amb. Dr. Palitha T.B. Kohona, and Dilup Nanyakkara, Advisor, Permanent Mission of Sri Lanka to the UN, New York, 19 October 2010.