18 February 2009

Open letter to Sri Lanka: join Convention on Cluster Munitions

Dear President Rajapaska,On behalf of the members of the Cluster Munition Coalition in over 80 countries, I respectfully urge you to sign and ratify the Convention on Cluster Munitions without delay.As you know some recent media coverage of the conflict between Sri Lankan armed forces and the LTTE focused on erroneous allegations of cluster munition use. As you are no doubt aware, the United Nations spokesperson Gordon Weiss issued a corrective to Amnesty International on 6 February noting that UN staff had:"... confused the explosion of cluster munitions with air-burst fragmentation munitions, which deliver shrapnel over a wide area and which have a similar loud explosive report, followed by many smaller reports."This is consistent with analysis by weapons experts of ordnance photographed in the conflict region, identified as OFAB airburst fragmentation shells. In response to the allegations of cluster munition use a note on the website of Sri Lankan Ministry of Defence, Public Security, Law and Order stated:"The Government wishes to clarify that the Sri Lanka army do not use these cluster bombs nor do they have facilities to use them. The Sri Lanka army use no such lethal munitions against innocent civilians in their war against terror. Further more cluster bombs are banned in the UN convention and Sri Lanka being a party to this convention respects these laws."We would welcome an official clarification from you that Sri Lanka does not possess any cluster munitions. In particular we would welcome clarification on whether Sri Lanka has imported either cluster bombs for use in your Kfir attack aircraft or 122mm cluster rockets for your RM-70 rocket launchers.As stated above, we would welcome Sri Lanka's signature and ratification of the Convention on Cluster Munitions and, while the relevant procedures are being finalised nationally, we would welcome an official statement that Sri Lanka renounces the use of cluster munitions and is preparing to join the 95 states that have signed the Convention on Cluster Munitions.Sincerely,Thomas NashCoordinatorCluster Munition CoalitionCMC Open letter to Sri Lanka