Banning Cluster Bombs – Dublin, May 19-30 2008

(letter published on Saturday May 10 in the International Herald Tribune, written by Jakob Kellenberger, Geneva President, International Committee of the Red Cross)

Note how the proposed new Treaty is not to ban cluster munitions outright: it is to prevent the deployment of ineffectual bombs that do not explode during a conflict, and despite having zero military strategic or tactical value, rather hang on waiting to kill or wound unsuspecting, perfectly innocent civilians years and even decades after the war has ended.

More than 100 countries are due to meet in Dublin later this month to negotiate a new international treaty banning cluster munitions that cause unacceptable harm to civilians. They should seize this historic opportunity to prevent these weapons from killing and maiming countless other men, women and children.

The International Committee of the Red Cross has repeatedly witnessed the terrible impact of cluster munitions on civilians in armed conflicts across the globe. Their deadly legacy can continue for generations.

Laos, for example, the world’s worst affected country, is still struggling to deal with the estimated 270 million munitions dropped there in the 1960s and 1970s. Tens of millions failed to explode and go on killing people today.

In more than 20 countries around the world, unexploded cluster munitions have effectively rendered vast areas as hazardous as minefields.

Without urgent concerted international action, the human toll of cluster munitions could become far worse than that of antipersonnel landmines, which are now banned by three-quarters of the world’s countries.

Meanwhile, billions of cluster munitions are currently in the stockpiles of many nations. Many models are aged, inaccurate and unreliable. But unlike antipersonnel landmines, which were in the hands of virtually all armed forces, only about 75 countries currently possess cluster munitions.

The Dublin conference is the culmination of a process that started in Oslo in February 2007 and has been building momentum ever since. Participants should agree to a treaty that prohibits inaccurate and unreliable cluster munitions, provides for their clearance and ensures assistance to victims.

Jakob Kellenberger, Geneva President, International Committee of the Red Cross

Some useful links related to the above: