Call on Users to Sign Treaty Banning the Weapon

Zahra Hussein Soufan by Alison Locke
Zahra Hussein Soufan, Lebanon
(© Alison Locke)

(London, 12 August 2009) - Israel, Georgia and Russia were urged today to join the global ban on cluster bombs as members of the Cluster Munition Coalition (CMC) held events and activities throughout the world to remember the victims of cluster bomb strikes by those countries.

The weapon was used last August in the conflict between Russia and Georgia and three years ago by Israel in southern Lebanon (and to a much lesser extent by Hezbollah in northern Israel).”These tragic anniversaries are important reminders of why cluster bombs should never be used again,” said Thomas Nash, CMC Coordinator. “Any use of cluster bombs by anyone anywhere should be condemned, whether a country has signed the treaty banning the weapon or not”.

During their week-long conflict in August 2008 over the breakaway region of South Ossetia, both Russia and Georgia used cluster munitions that resulted in the deaths of at least 16 civilians and injured at least 54 more.”We cannot go back in the past but lives and limbs can be saved in the future if countries decide to ban these horrible killers for good”, said Maia Buchukuri who campaigns for the CMC in Georgia. “World nations have an opportunity to make last year’s conflict between Russia and Georgia the last one where cluster bombs ever killed and maimed.”

During the final 72 hours of its month-long war in 2006 with Hezbollah, Israel attacked South Lebanon dropping about 4 million submunitions - many in populated areas - that resulted in hundreds of thousands of deadly duds and more than one hundred casualties in the first six weeks following the ceasefire alone. In Lebanon and Georgia, unexploded submunitions still continue to render tracts of farmland hazardous and pose a daily threat to local inhabitants.

These attacks reinforced the need for the 2008 Convention on Cluster Munitons that has been signed by Lebanon and 97 other nations. This agreement comprehensively prohibits cluster munitions, requires clearance of contaminated areas, and requires assistance to victims of the weapon. To date, the Convention has received 14 of the 30 ratifications needed to trigger entry into force six months later.

“We risk our lives everyday to rid our land from the dormant killers so that one day children will play in safety and farmers will grow vegetable and olives without fear of losing a limb or their lives”, said Ms Lamis Zein, who supervises a clearance site for Norwegian People’s Aid in South Lebanon. “Through the Convention on Cluster Munitions we need to ensure that communities affected by cluster bomb remnants receive the assistance they need”.

Despite the significance of the threat posed by South Lebanon’s uncleared cluster munition duds, demining resources have reduced significantly in 2008 due to funding constraints. As a result many clearance agencies have been forced to review and in some cases reduce their demining capacity. The Convention on Cluster Munitons requires that donor countries support clearance and victim assistance programs in affected countries such as Lebanon that have joined the treaty.

Dropped from the air or launched from land, cluster bombs scatter a number - often hundreds - of smaller bomblets over an area as large as several football fields. Because of their wide area effect they kill and injure civilians and military alike and often fail to explode on impact leaving behind de facto landmines that threaten communities for weeks, years or even decades after a conflict.

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For more information or to request an interview, contact Jean-Marc Jacobs (CMC Media and Communications Officer): jean-marc@stopclustermunitions.org, or +44(0)7515575174

Interviews: Spokespersons are available in many different countries and speaking a wide range of languages. These include people working on the ground as well as policy and legal experts.

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NOTE TO EDITORS:

Remembrance events:
CMC members in Georgia, Lebanon, The Netherlands, New Zealand, Switzerland, United Kingdom and elsewhere are holding events and activities during August to remember the victims of cluster bomb attacks in Georgia (2008) and South Lebanon (2006). A full list of activities is available online here.

International Humanitarian Law
Today marks the 60th anniversary of the Geneva Conventions on the protection of war victims. The Geneva Conventions and International Humanitarian Law (IHL) in general have had to adapt to a rapidly changing world. The emerging global norm that the Convention on Cluster Munitions represents should be seen as part of this IHL evolution and a response to the threat posed by an absolutely unacceptable class of weapons.

The Cluster Munition Coalition
The CMC is an international coalition of non-governmental organisations (NGOs) working in 80 countries to encourage urgent action against cluster bombs. The CMC facilitates the efforts of NGOs worldwide to educate governments, the public and the media about the problems of cluster munitions and the solution through the global treaty banning the weapon.

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DOCUMENTS

Questions & Answers - Georgia/Lebanon Cluster Bombing Remembrance.pdf