‘War scrap is a resource like wood or bamboo’ – At last, a ban on cluster bombs

More than 100 countries, gathered in Dublin, agreed on 28 May to ban cluster bombs in what campaigners called the most significant disarmament treaty for a decade. The signatories, who agreed the text for the treaty to be signed in Oslo in December, include some of Europe’s biggest traditional users and stockpilers of the weapons, including France, Germany and the United Kingdom.

Some of the world’s main producers and stockpilers – including the United States, Russia and China – oppose the move to ban cluster munitions. A statement from the US, which boycotted the Dublin conference, said:”While the United States shares the humanitarian concerns of those in Dublin, cluster munitions have demonstrated military utility, and their elimination from US stockpiles would put the lives of our soldiers and those of our coalition partners at risk.”

Cluster bombs have been used in battle for more than 40 years, in 30 countries. Landmine Action says they pose the gravest dangers to civilians since antipersonnel mines, which were banned in 1997. In Kosovo, Nato aircraft dropped around 290,000 sub-munitions over a 10-week period in 1999. Cluster bombs were also used in Afghanistan in 2001 and 2002, and over 10,000 were used in Iraq during the US invasion in 2003. During the five weeks of the 2006 war in Lebanon, Israel spread 4m sub-munitions across the country’s southern regions, according to the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC). They resulted in more than 200 civilian casualties.

The new treaty prohibits the use, production and trade of cluster munitions, and establishes a six-year deadline for the destruction of all existing stocks. It also goes beyond the ban by requiring the clearance of contaminated areas – with a deadline – as well as assistance to victims and affected communities.

Simon Conway, from the Cluster Munitions Coalition, a network of civil society and rights organisations engaged with the ICRC to secure a ban on the weapons, says there will now be “massive” pressure on the US. “We think now that all of America’s key allies have just renounced the weapon it will be very difficult for the US to engage in operations with countries who have banned this weapon and continue to use them.”

Ref: Le Monde

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