UPDATE: On 1 March 2018, Sri Lanks acceded to the Convention on Cluster Munitions to become the 103rd State Party. The treaty will enter into force for Sri Lanka on 1 September.
(Information below was last updated in August 2017 and will be more fully updated later this year.)
Summary: Non-signatory Sri Lanka supports the convention’s humanitarian objectives, but has not commented on whether it will join it. Sri Lanka has participated as an observer in the convention’s meetings since 2011 and it voted in favor of a key UN resolution on the convention in December 2016.
Sri Lanka is not known to have produced or exported cluster munitions. Sri Lanka states that it has never stockpiled or used cluster munitions. In May 2017, Sri Lanka again denied allegations that its armed forces used cluster munitions in the 2008–2009 operation against the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE).
The Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka has not acceded to the Convention on Cluster Munitions.
Sri Lanka has shown interest in the convention, but has not commented on its position on accession. At the convention’s First Review Conference in September 2015, Sri Lanka expressed its support for the convention’s humanitarian objectives and said it has never used or stockpiled cluster munitions.
In May 2017, Sri Lanka responded to a request from Cluster Munition Monitor for updated information by denying allegations it has used cluster munitions in the past.
In December 2016, Sri Lanka voted in favor of a key UN General Assembly (UNGA) resolution that calls on states outside the Convention on Cluster Munitions to “join as soon as possible.” It voted in favor of the first UNGA resolution on the convention in December 2015.
Sri Lanka participated in one meeting of the Oslo Process that created the Convention on Cluster Munitions, Vienna in December 2007. It attended a regional meeting on cluster munitions in Bali, Indonesia, in November 2009.
Since 2011, Sri Lanka has participated as an observer in every Meeting of States Parties of the convention. It attended the First Review Conference in 2015. Sri Lanka did not make a statement at the Sixth Meeting of States Parties in Geneva in September 2016.
Sri Lanka has voted in favor of UNGA resolutions expressing outrage at the use of cluster munitions in Syria, most recently in December 2016.
In December 2015, Sri Lanka’s President Maithripala Sirisena met with the Cluster Munition Coalition (CMC)’s national partner, the Sri Lanka Campaign to Ban Landmines (SLCBL), that urged him to support Sri Lanka’s accession to the Convention on Cluster Munitions and Mine Ban Treaty. In May 2017, campaign representatives met with Sri Lanka’s Secretary of Defense and military officials to discuss the importance of acceding to these humanitarian disarmament instruments.
Sri Lanka is not a party to the Mine Ban Treaty, but in March 2016 announced its intent to accede to it. Sri Lanka is a party to the Convention on Conventional Weapons.
Use, production, transfer, and stockpiling
Sri Lankan officials have repeatedly stated that its armed forces do not possess cluster munitions and have never used the weapons.
Sri Lanka has emphatically denied claims that it used cluster munitions in 2008–2009 during the final months of its military operation against the LTTE in the northern Vanni region. In May 2017, Sri Lanka provided the following response to Cluster Munition Monitor’s request for updated information: “With regard to the recent allegations of using ‘Cluster Munitions’ during the operations against LTTE terrorists, Sri Lanka Army, Sri Lanka Navy and Sri Lanka Air Force re-iterated their earlier stand that they have never used Cluster Munitions”
The statement does not refer to a June 2016 proposal by UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) urging the government of Sri Lanka initiate an independent investigation into the alleged use of cluster munitions in past. The OHCHR suggestion came after new evidence emerged in June 2016 showing that three mine clearance organizations have cleared cluster munition remnants, including unexploded submunitions, from at least six different sites in the north of the country since 2009.
The Sri Lankan air force possesses aircraft capable of delivering this type of Soviet-made cluster munition, while the LTTE had light planes incapable of carrying them. The Indian air force possesses RBK-500 series cluster bombs and was involved in a military intervention against the LTTE in northern Sri Lanka in 1987–1990 and HALO told the Guardian newspaper that it could not determine who used the cluster munitions or when, asserting that it “could have been any time within the last three decades.”
Previously, in April 2012, the government denied allegations that it used cluster munitions during the conflict. A February 2009 media article alleged that Sri Lankan forces used cluster munitions against the LTTE, and specifically while targeting Pudukkudyirippu Hospital. A UN spokesperson initially said the hospital was attacked with cluster munitions, but retracted the statement after further investigation.
A March 2011 report by a UN panel of experts on Sri Lanka noted the government’s denial and said that it was unable to reach a conclusion on the credibility of the allegation of use of cluster munitions by Sri Lanka.
 In 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. Ministry of Economic Development, “The National Strategy for Mine Action in Sri Lanka,” September 2010. In 2013, a representative of the country’s armed forces informed the CMC that the Sri Lankan military does not object to Sri Lanka joining the convention. CMC interview with Brig. H.J.S. Gunawardane, Head of the Sri Lanka delegation, Convention on Cluster Munitions Fourth Meeting of States Parties, Lusaka, 12 September 2013.
 Statement of Sri Lanka, Convention on Cluster Munitions First Review Conference, 9 September 2015. Notes by the Monitor.
 Email to Mary Wareham, Advocacy Director, HRW, from Mafusa Lafir, Second Secretary, Permanent Mission of Sri Lanka to the UN in Geneva, 26 May 2017.
 “Implementation of the Convention on Cluster Munitions,” UNGA Resolution 71/45, 5 December 2016.
 “Implementation of the Convention on Cluster Munitions,” UNGA Resolution 70/54, 7 December 2015.
 During the high-level segment of the 2015 Review Conference, Sri Lanka made a statement expressing its support for the humanitarian objectives of the convention. Statement of Sri Lanka, Convention on Cluster Munitions First Review Conference, Dubrovnik, 9 September 2015. Notes by the Monitor.
 “Situation of human rights in the Syrian Arab Republic,” UNGA Resolution 71/203, 19 December 2016.
 “Sri Lanka Campaign to Ban Landmines representatives meet President,” news.lk (official government portal), 29 December 2015.
 Email from Vidya Abhayagunawardena, SLCBL Campaigner, 22 May 2017.
 Statement of Sri Lanka, Convention on Cluster Munitions First Review Conference, 9 September 2015. Notes by the Monitor. See also, Monitor meeting with Amb. Dr. Palitha T.B. Kohona, and Dilup Nanyakkara, Advisor, Permanent Mission of Sri Lanka to the UN in New York, New York, 19 October 2010.
 See, HRW and Landmine Action, Banning Cluster Munitions: Government Policy and Practice (Ottawa: Mines Action Canada, May 2009), pp. 242–243. In October 2009, Sri Lankan Army Commander Lt.-Gen. 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.
 Email to Mary Wareham, HRW, from Mafusa Lafir, Permanent Mission of Sri Lanka to the UN in Geneva, 26 May 2017.
 Paragraph 33 states: “In light of recent reports on new evidence that has emerged on the use of cluster munitions towards the end of the conflict, following similar allegations in the OHCHR investigation report, the High Commissioner calls for an independent and impartial investigation to be carried out.” OHCHR, “Promoting reconciliation, accountability and human rights in Sri Lanka,” A/HRC/32/CRP.4, 28 June 2016, p. 8.
 The Guardian published photographs that show clearance operators preparing to destroy the remnants of an RBK-500 AO-2.5RT cluster bomb. It reported that HALO Trust cleared 42 cluster munitions—likely submunitions—from sites near Pachchilapalli, which saw fighting between government and LTTE forces at the end of the war. HALO said it reported the clearance at the time by submitting the records to the government-run mine action center. Emmanuel Stoakes, “Sri Lanka denies cluster bombs found in war zones were government weapons,” The Guardian, 26 June 2016. See also, Emmanuel Stoakes, “Cluster bombs used in Sri Lanka's civil war, leaked photos suggest,” The Guardian, 20 June 2016.
 Emmanuel Stoakes, “Sri Lanka denies cluster bombs found in war zones were government weapons,” The Guardian, 26 June 2016.
 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. See, Ravi Nessman, “UN Finds Cluster Bombs in Sri Lanka,” Associated Press (New Delhi), 26 April 2012; and Ravi Nessman, “Witness: Man hit by cluster bomb in Sri Lanka war,” Associated Press (New Delhi), 27 April 2012. The government’s Media Center for National Security responded, “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.” Ministry of Defence and Urban Development, “Ministry of Defence denies use of cluster munitions by security forces,” 28 April 2012.
 “U.N. cites Sri Lanka cluster bomb use: The U.S., EU, Norway and Japan join in a plea to the Tamil Tiger rebels to end their failing separatist struggle and avoid more deaths,” Los Angeles Times, 4 February 2009.
 “UN accepts Sri Lanka has not used cluster bombs – website,” BBC Monitoring South Asia, 5 February 2009; and Walter Jayawardhana, “UN Spokesman Accepts Sri Lanka Never Had Cluster Bombs,” Ministry of Defence, 5 February 2009.
 Report of the Secretary General’s Panel of Experts on Accountability in Sri Lanka, 31 March 2011, p. 47 (Section G, paras. 168–169).