LONDON (Reuters) - Cluster bombs, which kill and maim civilians long after conflicts end, have been destroyed by governments in their hundreds of thousands since a treaty was signed four years ago to end their use, a disarmament group said on Thursday.
The bombs, dropped by air or fired by artillery, scatter hundreds of bomblets across a wide area which sometimes fail to explode and are difficult to locate and remove. They pose a particular risk to children who can be attracted by their toy-like appearance and bright colors.
The Cluster Munition Coalition (CMC) said in a report that governments which joined the 2008 Convention on Cluster Munitions had destroyed stockpiles of nearly 750,000 cluster bombs, containing about 85 million smaller bomblets.
The group says the weapons have killed and injured thousands of civilians during the last 40 years and that one third of recorded casualties are children.
"The impressive number of stockpiled cluster bombs destroyed under the Convention on Cluster Munitions demonstrates just how committed governments are to rapidly implementing this treaty," said Mary Wareham of Human Rights Watch, editor of the CMC's Cluster Munition Monitor 2012 report, released on Thursday.
"It is proving to be a milestone in humanitarian disarmament diplomacy, and the hold-out states that have not yet joined need to get on the right side of history," she added.
The report cited allegations of the fresh use of cluster munitions in Syria and Sudan, and said at least 55 new cluster bomb casualties had been confirmed last year, including in Cambodia, Iraq, Lebanon and Sudan.
A total of 111 countries have joined the cluster munitions convention, of which 75 countries have ratified the treaty, making it national law. The agreement prohibits the use, stockpiling, production and transfer of cluster bombs.
Signatories to the treaty include big arms exporters Britain, France and Germany - but not the United States, Russia or China.
Countries who have joined the convention and those interested in adopting it will meet in Oslo on September 11.
(Reporting by Mohammed Abbas; Editing by Pravin Char)