Cluster Munition Ban Policy

Last updated: 30 October 2020

[UPDATE October 2020: On 23 October, a Human Rights Watch (HRW) report documented incidents of use of cluster munitions by Azerbaijan following the outbreak of hostilities in Nagorno-Karabakh in late September 2020. A second HRW report on 30 October found cluster munition use by Armenia during the conflict, but could not confirm whether it was direct use by Armenian forces or if Armenian forces supplied cluster munitions to forces in Nagorno-Karabakh.]

Summary: Nagorno-Karabakh is not recognized by any United Nations (UN) member state and thus is not eligible to accede to, or attend meetings of, the Convention on Cluster Munitions. In May 2017, a representative told the Monitor that Nagorno-Karabakh does not possess cluster munitions and claimed there has been no use, production, or transfer of cluster munitions on its territory. Cluster munition rockets were fired into Nagorno-Karabakh in April 2016.


Prior to the dissolution of the Soviet Union, the parliament of the Nagorno-Karabakh Autonomous Province voted in 1988 to secede from the Azerbaijan Soviet Socialist Republic (SSR) and join the Armenian SSR, which resulted in armed conflict from 1988 to 1994. The region declared independence as the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic in 1991.

In May 2012, Nagorno-Karabakh’s acting Minister of Foreign Affairs Vasiliy Atajanyan expressed support for the ban on cluster munitions: “Realizing what a deadly [sic] to civilians are cluster munitions, and assuming that the suffering of civilians caused by cluster munitions outweigh the potential military benefits of using this weapon, the authorities of Nagorno-Karabakh Republic fully support the Convention on Cluster Munitions.” However, he said, “the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic is not in a position to join the Convention, in view of the fact the conflict with Azerbaijan is not yet resolved.”[1]

Use, production, transfer, and stockpiling

In May 2017, the Minister of Foreign Affairs Karen Mirzoyanprovided a statement in response to the Monitor’s request for an update on cluster munitions that states the “Republic Artsakh [the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic] does not possess cluster munitions and there has been no use, production or transfer of cluster munitions on the territory of the Republic.”[2]

Previously, in May 2012, the Acting Minister of Foreign Affairs Atajanyan stated that “the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic does not produce, export, stockpile or use cluster munitions and does not intend to do so.”

Previous use

In May 2017, the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Nagorno-Karabakh provided to the Monitor with evidence of cluster munition use on its territory in April 2016, stating: “During the 4-day aggression against Republic of Artsakh in April 2016, Azerbaijan has employed two types of ground-launched cluster munition rockets (LAR 160 and Smerch) in the north of the Republic (Martakert region) and in the southeast (Hadrut region).” The information, including photographs of cluster submunition remnants and rockets, was sourced by the Artsakh Ministry of Defense, the State Service for Emergency Situations, the Prosecutor General’s office, and HALO Trust. Subsequently, the Artsakh State Service for Emergency Situations and HALO cleared more than 200 unexploded cluster submunitions from the two locations.[3]

Cluster Munition Monitor was not able to conduct an independent investigation to make a conclusive determination about responsibility for this cluster munition use. During fighting across the line of contact separating local Armenian-backed separatists and Azerbaijani forces, Azerbaijan launched artillery and rockets more than 10 kilometers into Nagorno-Karabakh from 1 April until 5 April 2016, when a ceasefire went into effect at 12:00 local time.[4]

Within 10 days, emergency clearance operations by HALO destroyed approximately 200 unexploded M095 DPICM-type submunitions near the villages of Nerkin Horatagh and Mokhratagh, close to the town of Martakert in northeast Nagorno-Karabakh.[5] HALO also cleared remnants of Israeli-produced LAR-160 surface-fired rockets, which deliver the M095 DPICM submunitions.[6] The cluster munitions were reportedly fired from Azerbaijan.[7]

Azerbaijan and Armenia have both denied using cluster munitions in the brief conflict and accused the other side of using the weapon against civilians. Azerbaijan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs claimed on 28 April 2016 that “cluster munitions used by the Armenian troops against the civilian Azerbaijani population living densely along the line of contact…do not bear any military goal and serve solely to perpetrate mass killings among the civilians.”[8] Armenia’s Ministry of Defense issued photographs on 6 April 2016 showing the remnants of Smerch rockets that it claimed Azerbaijan fired into Nagorno-Karabakh.[9]

Unknown quantities of air-dropped RBK-series cluster bombs were used in Nagorno-Karabakh during the 1988–1994 conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan over the territory. In June 2016, HALO destroyed an unexploded PTAB-1M submunition found by a farmer on agricultural land near the village of Mugalny.[10]

[1] Letter from Vasiliy Atajanyan, Acting Minister of Foreign Affairs, Foreign Ministry of the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic, in response to Landmine and Cluster Munition Monitor inquiry, 12 May 2012.

[2] Letter from Karen Mirzoyan, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic, 29 May 2017.

[3] Ibid.

[4] HALO Trust, “HALO Begins Emergency Clearance in Karabakh,” 19 April 2016; and HALO NagornoKarabakh (@HALO_NK), “NK’s Emergency Situations Service & HALO have destroyed 200+ ‪#clustermunitionssince clearance resumed in ‪#Karabakh,” 9:14am, 20 April 2016, Tweet.

[5] HALO NagornoKarabakh (@HALO_NK), “HALO's assessment of new ‪#clustermunitioncontamination is underway near Mokhratagh village, Martakert, ‪#Karabakh,” 6:39am, 14 April 2016, Tweet; and HALO NagornoKarabakh (@HALO_NK), “Rapid assessment of new ‪#clustermunitionstrikes in ‪#Karabakhhas allowed HALO to establish the footprint (extent),” 8:19am, 6 May 2016, Tweet.

[6] HALO NagornoKarabakh (@HALO_NK), “HALO starts emergency clearance of ‪#clustermunition(s) in Nerkin Horatagh village, Martakert, ‪#Karabakh,” 6:19am, 12 April 2016, Tweet.

[7] Roberto Travan, “Nagorno-Karabakh, A 25-Year Border War Reignites With Religion,” La Stampa, republished in English by World Crunch, 11 June 2016.

[9] The article stated that Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh “do not possess weaponry of this kind.“Armenian MOD provides factual proof of prohibited cluster missile use by Azerbaijani army,” ArmenPress, 6 April 2016.

[10] HALO NagornoKarabakh (@HALO_NK), “Thanks to Aleksey Saradjanov for reporting this PTAB cluster munition found on his farm near Mugalny vil. ‪#Karabakh,” 5:40am, 1 June 2016, Tweet.