Tuesday, November 07, 2006

To Reduce And Ultimately Eliminate The Horrendous Humanitarian And Development Impact Of The Increasing Use Of Cluster Bombs

"The top U.N. humanitarian official on Tuesday demanded an immediate moratorium on the use of cluster bombs, a day after the international Red Cross stepped up its campaign against the unreliable and inaccurate weapons.

''As long as there is no effective ban, these weapons will continue to disproportionately affect civilians, maiming and killing women, children, and other vulnerable groups,'' said Jan Egeland, the U.N. undersecretary-general for humanitarian affairs.

''This freeze is essential until the international community puts in place effective legal instruments to address urgent humanitarian concerns about their use,'' Egeland said in an address to the review conference of the 1980 U.N. Convention on Conventional Weapons.

Cluster bomblets, which can be as small as a flashlight battery, are packed into artillery shells or bombs dropped from aircraft. A single container fired to destroy airfields or tanks and soldiers typically scatters some 200 to 600 of the mini-explosives over an area the size of a football field.

The campaign against the weapons has picked up steam since Israel's monthlong war against Lebanon this summer.

U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan urged countries meeting Tuesday in Geneva to review a 26-year-old treaty controlling conventional weapons to come up with ways to ''reduce and ultimately eliminate the horrendous humanitarian and development impact'' of the bombs.

''Recent events show that the atrocious, inhumane effects of these weapons -- both at the time of their use and after conflict ends -- must be addressed immediately, so that civilian populations can start rebuilding their lives,'' Annan said in a statement.

The United Nations has estimated that Israel dropped as many as 4 million of the bomblets in southern Lebanon, with perhaps 40 percent of the submunitions failing to explode on impact.

Those that do not explode right away may detonate later at the slightest disturbance, experts say. Children are especially vulnerable because the bomblets are often an eye-catching yellow with small parachutes attached.
Annan called for a moratorium on ''cluster munitions that are known to be inaccurate and unreliable.''

On Monday, the International Committee of the Red Cross said countries should immediately end the use of inaccurate and unreliable cluster munitions because the indiscriminate deaths they cause outweigh any military advantages.

No international treaties, including the Geneva Conventions, specifically forbid the use of cluster bombs. However, the Geneva Conventions outline laws protecting civilians during conflict. Because cluster bomblets often cause civilian casualties after conflicts end -- much like land mines -- their use has been heavily criticized by human rights groups."

Associated Press "U.N. Official Wants Ban on Cluster Bombs" New York Times November 7, 2006


U.S.- made Cluster Bombs then [1960] and now [2006].

Unofficial reports indicate that the US State Department is inquiring into whether Israeli widespread use of US-made cluster bombs during the Lebanese conflict of the summer of 2006 conformed with the terms of agreements between them as to the conditions of the munition's use. It is confirmed that Hezbollah also used cluster bombs, but to a substantially more limited degree. Israel has expressed readiness to cooperate.

Photo credits: American Memory Project of the Library of Congress and vayu-sena-aux.tripod.com.


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