Serbia

Cluster Munition Ban Policy

Last updated: 05 September 2023

Summary: Non-signatory Serbia acknowledges the humanitarian concerns raised by cluster munitions, but has not taken any steps to join the Convention on Cluster Munitions. Serbia has participated as an observer at meetings of the convention, most recently the Tenth Meeting of States Parties in Geneva in August–September 2022. However, Serbia abstained from the vote on a key United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) resolution promoting the convention in December 2022.

Serbia possesses cluster munitions that it inherited from the break-up of the former Yugoslavia, but has not shared information on the types or quantities stockpiled. Cluster munitions were used by Yugoslavia, ethnic militias, and secessionist forces during the conflicts that resulted from the break-up of Yugoslavia in the 1990s. North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) forces used air-dropped cluster munitions in Serbia during the 1998–1999 conflict over Kosovo.

Policy

The Republic of Serbia has not acceded to the Convention on Cluster Munitions.

Serbia has acknowledged the humanitarian concerns raised by cluster munitions, but has not taken any steps to accede to the convention.[1] Serbia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs has generally supported the convention, while the Ministry of Defense has rejected calls for Serbia’s accession.[2] For example, in 2015, the Minister of Defense said Serbia could not consider ratifying the convention until it acquires new weapons to replace its stockpiled cluster munitions.[3]

Serbia played a leadership role throughout the Oslo Process that created the Convention on Cluster Munitions, most notably by hosting a major international conference for states affected by cluster munitions in Belgrade in October 2007.[4] Serbia actively participated in the formal negotiations in Dublin in May 2008 and joined in the consensus adoption of the convention text.

Despite playing an important and influential role in the diplomatic process, Serbia attended the Oslo Signing Conference in December 2008 only as an observer and did not explain why it was not signing the convention. Local media reported that internal actions directed at signing the convention halted after the General Staff of the Serbian Army recommended to the National Security Council that Serbia not join it.[5]

Serbia has participated as an observer at the convention’s meetings, most recently attending the Tenth Meeting of States Parties held in Geneva in August–September 2022.[6] Serbia also attended the convention’s intersessional meetings in Geneva in May 2022.

In December 2022, Serbia abstained from the vote on the annual UNGA resolution urging states outside the Convention on Cluster Munitions to “join as soon as possible.”[7]

Civilian harm from the use of cluster munitions in Ukraine in 2022 and 2023 has attracted Serbian media coverage and drawn attention to Serbia’s lack of participation in the convention.[8]

Civil society representatives in Serbia, particularly cluster munition survivors, have advocated for Serbia to accede to the Convention on Cluster Munitions without delay.[9]

Serbia is a State Party to the Mine Ban Treaty. It is also party to the Convention on Conventional Weapons (CCW).

Production

In 2011, the Ministry of Defense stated that Serbia “is not a producer of cluster munitions.”[10] Previously, in 2009, Serbia said that it lacked the capacity to produce cluster munitions and had not produced them since the dissolution of the former Yugoslavia.[11] Serbia may have inherited some production capabilities, according to standard reference works.[12] In the past, several Serbian companies have advertised surface-to-surface rocket launchers, rockets, and artillery that could be used with either unitary warheads or submunitions.[13]

Transfers and stockpiling

The size and exact composition of Serbia’s stockpile of cluster munitions is not known, but it is comprised of air-delivered cluster bombs, ground-launched rockets, and artillery projectiles.

Serbia’s stockpile contains cluster munitions produced by the former Yugoslavia, such as 120mm M93 mortar projectiles (containing 23 KB-2 submunitions), 152mm 3-O-23 artillery projectiles (containing 63 KB-2 submunitions), and 262mm M87 Orkan surface-to-surface rockets (containing 288 KB-1 submunitions). The KB-series submunitions are of dual-purpose improved conventional munition (DPICM) type. Serbia may also possess RAB-120 and KPT-150 cluster bombs.[14] In 2004, Jane’s Information Group listed Serbia as possessing BL-755 cluster bombs.[15]

In 2011, Serbia’s Ministry of Economy and Regional Development told the Monitor that it had no records in its database detailing any foreign trade of cluster munitions in the period from 2005 to 2010.[16]

In 2013 and 2015, the Ministry of Defense stated that the Serbian Army had taken steps to recall from operational use “part” of its cluster munition stockpile and initiate its disposal.[17] No further information has been provided on the quantities and types of stocks or the status of the destruction process.

Use

There is no evidence or allegations that Serbia has used cluster munitions since the Convention on Cluster Munitions was adopted in 2008.

Serbia’s Minister of Defense said in April 2015 that “the Army of Serbia has taken steps and implemented activities to recall from operational use a part of cluster munitions [sic] and start with its disposal.”[18] The Minister of Defense cited several reasons for doing so, including “the ban on use, the limited shelf-life of the cluster munitions available, and the limited possibilities of the military industry in regard of repairs and [performance] enhancement” of the cluster munitions.

Forces of the former Yugoslavia, as well as ethnic militias and secessionist forces, used cluster munitions during the conflicts resulting from the break-up of Yugoslavia starting in 1991. During the 1998–1999 conflict over Kosovo, aircraft from the Netherlands, the United Kingdom (UK), and the United States (US) dropped cluster bombs in Serbia and Kosovo during a NATO air campaign.[19] During the Kosovo conflict, forces of the former Yugoslavia also launched several cluster munition rocket attacks into border regions controlled by Albania.



[1] In 2016, a representative said that the government was interested in the convention, but was concerned about the costs of joining it. ICBL-CMC meeting with Tijana Bokic, First Secretary, Permanent Mission of Serbia to the United Nations (UN) in New York, New York, October 2016.

[2] For example, in a 2013 letter, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs described Serbia’s perspective as a country whose citizens had been injured and killed by cluster munitions. The letter highlighted the convention’s importance in introducing “new international values and standards in regard of the development, production, possession, use, and stockpiling of this inhumane and dangerous weapon,” but did not articulate Serbia’s views on accession. Letter from Amb. Miomir Udovicki, Assistant Minister, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, to Assistance Advocacy Access-Serbia (AAA-S), 15 August 2013. Translation by AAA-S, a member of the CMC. In 2011, a Ministry of Foreign Affairs representative informed the CMC that Serbia would join the convention “sooner than expected.” CMC meeting with Branka Latinović, Head of Arms Control Directorate, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and Zoran Vujić, Head of the Department of Security Policy, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, in Oslo, 12 September 2012; and CMC meeting with Zoran Vujić, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, in Beirut, 13 September 2011.

[3] Letter from Bratislav Gašić, Minister of Defense, to AAA-S, 15 April 2015.

[4] For more details on Serbia’s cluster munition policy and practice through early 2009, see Human Rights Watch (HRW) and Landmine Action, Banning Cluster Munitions: Government Policy and Practice (Ottawa: Mines Action Canada, May 2009), pp. 236–238.

[5] Minister of Defense Dragan Šutanovać reportedly stated that the Serbian Army could not give up cluster munitions because it did not have the capacity to destroy and replace existing stockpiles. See, “Cluster munitions are indispensable,” B92, 27 August 2009.

[6] Serbia participated in the convention’s Meetings of States Parties in 2011–2012 and 2016–2019, as well as the First Review Conference in 2015, the Second Review Conference in 2020 and 2021, and intersessional meetings in 2013–2015.

[7]Implementation of the Convention on Cluster Munitions,” UNGA Resolution 77/79, 7 December 2022. Serbia has a mixed record on supporting the annual UNGA resolution promoting the convention. It abstained from the vote in 2015 and 2018–2021, but voted in favor in 2016–2017.

[8] See, for example, “HRW urges Russia, Ukraine to stop using cluster bombs,” N1, 12 May 2022.

[10] Letter from the Public Relations Department, Ministry of Defense, 6 July 2011.

[11] Letter No. 235/1 from Dr. Slobodan Vukcević, Permanent Mission of Serbia to the UN in Geneva, 9 February 2009.

[12] See, HRW and Landmine Action, Banning Cluster Munitions: Government Policy and Practice (Ottawa: Mines Action Canada, May 2009), p. 238.

[13] On its website, Engine Development and Production Serbia (EDEPRO Serbia) advertised improvements to the range of Orkan surface-to-surface rockets. Yugoimport-SDPR also advertised artillery rockets on its website that could fire cluster munitions. An upgraded version of the OGANJ, called the LRSVM (Lanser Raketa Samohodni Višecevni Modularni, Self-Propelled Multiple Modular Rocket Launcher), capable of delivering both cluster and unitary munitions, was advertised on the Military-Technical Institute’s website. Email from Jelena Vicentić, AAA-S, 26 June 2012.

[14] For information on Yugoslav production of these weapons, see Robert Hewson, ed., Jane’s Air-Launched Weapons, Issue 44 (Surrey: Jane’s Information Group, 2004), p. 291; Terry J. Gandler and Charles Q. Cutshaw, eds., Jane’s Ammunition Handbook 2001–2002 (Surrey: Jane’s Information Group, 2001), p. 641; Leland S. Ness and Anthony G. Williams, eds., Jane’s Ammunition Handbook 2007–2008 (Surrey: Jane’s Information Group, 2007), pp. 598–599 and 720; and Defense Intelligence Agency, United States (US) Department of Defense, “Improved Conventional Munitions and Selected Controlled-Fragmentation Munitions (Current and Projected) DST-1160S-020-90,” undated.

[15] Robert Hewson, ed., Jane’s Air-Launched Weapons, Issue 44 (Surrey: Jane’s Information Group, 2004), p. 845.

[16] According to the ministry, publicly available reports on the transfer of controlled goods for 2005–2008 provide sufficient evidence that there were no imports or exports of cluster munitions. While the reports for 2009 and 2010 had yet to be published, the ministry stated that it could confirm there were no records in its database of licenses issued in 2009 or 2010 for the import or export of cluster munitions. Email from Jasmina Roskić, Director of Division for Agreements on Bilateral Promotion and Protection of Investments, Concessions, and Foreign Trade in Controlled Goods, Ministry of Economy and Regional Development, 16 February 2011; Ministry of Economy and Regional Development, “Annual Report on the Realization of Foreign Trade Transfers of Controlled Goods for 2005 and 2006,” 2007; Ministry of Economy and Regional Development, “Annual Report on the Transfers of Controlled Goods in 2007,” 2009; and Ministry of Economy and Regional Development, “Annual Report on the Transfers of Controlled Goods in 2008,” 2010.

[17] Letter from Bratislav Gašić, Minister of Defense, to AAA-S, 15 April 2015; and Letter No. 335–7, “Response by the Ministry of Defense in connection to the Convention on Cluster Munitions,” from Miroslav Janovic, Ministry of Defense, to the CMC and AAA-S, 19 August 2013. Translations by AAA-S.

[18] Letter from Bratislav Gašić, Minister of Defense, to AAA-S, 15 April 2015. Translation by AAA-S.

[19] HRW, “Civilian Deaths in the NATO Air Campaign,” Vol. 12, No. 1(D), February 2000; Norwegian People’s Aid (NPA), “Yellow Killers: The Impact of Cluster Munitions in Serbia and Montenegro,” 2007; and Darvin Lisica and Šerif Bajrić, “Report on the Impact of Unexploded Cluster Submunitions in Serbia,” NPA, January 2009.