13 August 2008

Press Release: In memory of Lebanese victims campaigners worldwide urge governments to sign cluster bomb ban

(August 13th 2008): Two years after the tragic 2006 war in Lebanon, with its massive use of cluster bombs, governments are being urged to honour the victims and prevent future casualties by signing an international treaty banning the weapons this December.In south Lebanon, where the UN estimated that approximately 4 million cluster bombs were dropped by Israel in 2006, over 5000 people, including parliamentarians, victims, religious leaders and campaigners will today hold a candle-lit vigil to remember the hundreds of innocent people killed and maimed and thousands affected by the weapons. Memorials and protests will also be held in North Lebanon, West Bekaa, Thailand, Nepal, India, New Zealand, Kosovo and Cambodia."I lost my five-year-old son to an unexploded cluster bomb on an ordinary day in the park. He was one of many children killed by cluster bombs every year", says Raed Mokaled, a campaigner from Lebanon. "I say to governments, think of these children as your children. Sign the treaty before more innocent lives are lost".In May this year over 100 governments negotiated and adopted an international treaty in Dublin banning the use, production, transfer and stockpiling of cluster bombs. The Convention on Cluster Munitions will become binding international law after it is signed in Oslo on December 3rd and then ratified by 30 nations.The treaty contains the strongest provisions for victim assistance ever laid down in international law. If signed by Lebanon in December, aid to the country for clearance and support to victims stands to be considerably boosted.Thomas Nash from the Cluster Munition Coalition says:"Over 100 governments showed the political will to ban cluster bombs in Dublin last May. Now leaders must live up to their promises and sign the treaty in Oslo. They owe it not only to the victims of Lebanon, but to the tens of thousands of people worldwide whose lives have been shattered by a weapon that keeps on killing"Cluster bombs have maimed and killed civilians in thirty-one countries and territories including Afghanistan, Iraq, Laos and Serbia and Kosovo. They can not distinguish between military and civilains at the time of use or in the years after, when they fail to explode on impact.During its conflict with Hezbollah in July and August 2006, Israel launched millions of cluster bombs on south Lebanon, striking many populated areas . Hundreds of thousands of deadly duds remained unexploded on the ground after the conflict, causing death, disability and economic devastation since. Since 2006 cluster duds have caused at least 213 civilian casualties and killed or maimed 52 deminers trying to deactivate them. For more information on cluster bomb use in south Lebanon in 2006 download the Human Rights Watch Report Flooding south Lebanon: http://www.hrw.org/reports/2008/lebanon0208/For more information, photos and interviews contact:(In London) Natalie Curtis, Cluster Munition Coalition: +44 020 7820 0222, Natalie@stopclustermunitions.org.(In Lebanon) Khaled Yamout, Norwegian People’s Aid: +961 1 702582, landmines@npalebanon.orgFor more information, please see: Take Action: Remember LebanonNotes to Editors:What are cluster bombs?Cluster munitions are large weapons which are deployed from the air and from the ground and release dozens or hundreds of smaller submunitions. Submunitions released by airdropped cluster bombs are most often called "bomblets," while those delivered from the ground by artillery or rockets are usually referred to as "grenades."What’s the problem with this weapon?Air-dropped or ground-launched, they cause two major humanitarian problems and risks to civilians. First, their widespread dispersal means they cannot distinguish between military targets and civilians so the humanitarian impact can be extreme, especially when the weapon is used in or near populated areas. Many submunitions fail to detonate on impact and become de facto antipersonnel mines killing and maiming people long after the conflict has ended. These duds are more lethal than antipersonnel mines; incidents involving submunition duds are much more likely to cause death than injury.Who has used cluster munitions?At least 14 countries have used cluster munitions: Eritrea, Ethiopia, France, Israel, Morocco, the Netherlands, Nigeria, Russia (USSR), Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Tajikistan, UK, US, and FR Yugoslavia. A small number of non-state armed groups have used the weapon (such as Hezbollah in Lebanon in 2006). Billions of submunitions are stockpiled by some 76 countries. A total of 34 states are known to have produced over 210 different types cluster munitions. More than two dozen countries have been affected by the use of cluster munitions including Afghanistan, Albania, Angola, Azerbaijan, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Cambodia, Chad, Croatia, DR Congo, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Grenada, Iraq, Israel, Kuwait, Laos, Lebanon, Montenegro, Saudi Arabia, Serbia, Sierra Leone, Sudan, Syria, Tajikistan, Uganda, and Vietnam, as well as Chechnya, Falkland/Malvinas, Nagorno-Karabakh, and Western Sahara.Why is a ban on cluster munitions necessary?Simply put, cluster munitions kill and injure too many civilians. The weapon caused more civilian casualties in Iraq in 2003 and Kosovo in 1999 than any other weapon system. Cluster munitions stand out as the weapon that poses the gravest dangers to civilians since antipersonnel mines, which were banned in 1997. Yet there is currently no provision in international law to specifically address problems caused by cluster munitions. Israel’s massive use of the weapon in Lebanon in August 2006 resulted in more than 200 civilian casualties in the year following the ceasefire and served as the catalyst that has propelled governments to attempt to secure a legally-binding international instrument tackling cluster munitions in 2008.What is the Oslo Process?In February 2007, 46 governments met in Oslo to endorse a call by Norwegian Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Støre to conclude a new legally binding instrument in 2008 that prohibits the use, production, transfer and stockpiling of cluster munitions that cause unacceptable harm to civilians and provide adequate resources to assist survivors and clear contaminated areas. Subsequent International Oslo Process meetings were held in Peru (May 2007), Austria (December 2007), and New Zealand (February 2008). 107 countries negotiated and adopted a treaty that bans cluster bombs and provides assistance to affected communities in May 2008 in Dublin.States that adopted the Convention on Cluster Munitions (107): Albania, Argentina, Australia, Austria, Bahrain, Belgium, Belize, Benin, Bolivia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Botswana, Brunei Darussalam, Bulgaria, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cambodia, Cameroon, Canada, Chad, Chile, Comoros, Republic of Congo, Cook Islands, Costa Rica, Côte d’Ivoire, Croatia, Czech Republic, Democratic Republic of Congo, Denmark, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Estonia, Fiji, Finland, France, Germany, Ghana, Guatemala, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Holy See, Honduras, Hungary, Iceland, Indonesia, Ireland, Italy, Jamaica, Japan, Kenya, Kyrgyzstan, Lao PDR, Lebanon, Lesotho, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Macedonia (FYR), Madagascar, Malawi, Malaysia, Mali, Malta, Mauritania, Mexico, Moldova, Montenegro, Morocco, Mozambique, The Netherlands, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Niger, Nigeria, Norway, Palau, Panama, Papua New Guinea, Paraguay, Peru, Philippines, Portugal, Qatar, Samoa, San Marino, Sao Tome and Principe, Senegal, Serbia, Seychelles, Sierra Leone, Slovakia, Slovenia, South Africa, Spain, Sudan, Swaziland, Sweden, Switzerland, Tanzania, Timor-Leste, Togo, Uganda, United Kingdom, Uruguay, Vanuatu, Venezuela and Zambia.