Friday, August 27, 2010

Cluster bomb producers US, Israel, China, S.Korea refuse to sign landmark cluster munitions treaty; 1st meeting in Laos, "most bombed place on earth"

(A constructive explosion: Moldova’s Ministry of Defence destroys cluster munition stocks in a controlled explosion at Bulboaca training ground, 29 July 2010. Photo credit: Asle Huse/NPA)

The Convention on Cluster Munitions (CCM) entered into force on August 1, 2010, and became binding international law for the State Parties, with 39 ratifications and 108 signatures. Many former users, producers, and stockpilers of cluster munitions joined, as have many contaminated countries. Japan is among the 37 governments that have ratified the convention. The others are: Albania, Austria, Belgium, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Croatia, Denmark, Ecuador, Fiji, France, Germany, Holy See, Ireland, Laos, Lesotho, Luxembourg, Macedonia FYR, Malawi, Mali, Malta, Mexico, Moldova, Montenegro, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Niger, Norway, Samoa, San Marino, Sierra Leone, Slovenia, Spain, Seychelles, United Kingdom, Uruguay, and Zambia. The European Parliament has urged all member states to join.

Besides China, other Asian countries that will not sign the convention are Singapore, Taiwan (increasingly economically integrated with China), and South Korea. South Korean weapons manufacturers Hanwha and Poongsan are named in the Cluster Munition Coalition's "Hall of Shame" along with Alliant TechSystems (US), Lockheed Martin (US), Norinco (China), Singapore Technologies Engineering (Singapore), Splav (Russia), and Textron (US).

Although the Japanese government has signed the convention, financial institutions from Japan are continuing to invest in cluster munition producers. Other countries allowing investment are Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Switzerland and the United Kingdom. Non-signatory states South Korea, China, Taiwan, Russia and the U.S. are heavy investors in cluster bombs

The CCM prohibits all use, stockpiling, production and transfer of cluster munitions, which scatter hundreds of small bombs ("bomblets") over a wide area. First produced during the Second World War, the scattered explosives can remain armed for decades, thereby wounding or killing civilians not only during wars, but also long afterwards.

Nobel Peace Prize recipient Handicap International estimates that 98% of cluster bomb victims are civilians and nearly one-third are children. Some are unusually shaped or brightly coloured, making them attractive to young children who are unaware they are filled with explosive shrapnel.

Separate articles in the Convention address assistance to victims, clearance of contaminated areas, and destruction of stockpiles.

Amnesty International reported that "Moldova and Norway destroyed the last of their cluster munition stockpiles, joining Spain, which eradicated its stockpile last year" and "Nearly a dozen other states have begun destruction, including the United Kingdom, a major former user and producer of cluster munitions."

The BBC reported worldwide elation in humanitarian circles:
Campaigners have hailed the treaty as the most significant disarmament and humanitarian treaty for a decade.

"This is a triumph of humanitarian values over a cruel and unjust weapon," Thomas Nash, co-ordinator of the Cluster Munition Coalition (CMC), told the BBC.

"At a time when concern over civilian deaths in conflict is in the news, this treaty stands out as a clear example of what governments must do to protect civilians and redress the harm already caused by cluster bombs."

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said: "This new instrument is a major advance for the global disarmament and humanitarian agendas, and will help us to counter the widespread insecurity and suffering caused by these terrible weapons, particularly among civilians and children."

The agreement "highlights not only the world's collective revulsion at these abhorrent weapons, but also the power of collaboration among governments, civil society and the United Nations to change attitudes and policies on a threat faced by all humankind," Mr Ban said.
The First Meeting of States Parties will take place in Vientiane, Laos on November 8-12, 2010.

However, major cluster bomb producing nations such as the U.S., China, Russia, and Israel refused to sign. India, Pakistan, both Koreas, and Brazil also have not signed.

Israel dropped 4 million bomblets (many decorated with white ribbons) in civilian areas in southern Lebanon during the last three days of the war in August 2006, when a ceasefire had already been agreed. This resulted in an international humanitarian outcry that catalyzed the now realized treaty.

Vietnam War-era cluster bombs are still killing and maiming people in Laos, which the U.S. transformed from a beautiful country into the most bombed place on earth.

Legacies of War, an advocacy group that is working to remove left-behind U.S. cluster bombs details the enormity of the task:
From 1964 to 1973, the U.S. dropped more than two million tons of ordnance over Laos during 580,000 bombing missions—equal to a planeload of bombs every 8 minutes, 24-hours a day, for 9 years. The bombing was part of the U.S. Secret War in Laos to support the Royal Lao Government against Pathet Lao and North Vietnamese Army. The bombings destroyed many villages and displaced hundreds of thousands of Lao civillians during the nine-year period.

Of the 260 million cluster bombs dropped, up to 30 percent of the cluster bombs dropped by the U.S. in Laos failed to detonate, leaving extensive contamination from unexploded ordnance (UXO) in the countryside. These “bombies,” as the Laotians now call them, have killed or maimed more than 34,000 people since the war’s end—and they continue to claim more innocent victims every day.
Legacies of War has linked to Christian Science Monitor correspondent Jamie Ferrie's "As cluster bomb ban takes effect, the view from Laos" which describes the U.S. failure to take responsibility for clean-up, despite ongoing Laotian deaths from the buried explosive weapons:
...figures show a dramatic contrast between the amount the U.S. spent bombing Laos and the amount spent clearing away the lethal legacy. The U.S. currently contributes about $5 million per year to cleanup efforts. Every single day for nine years, it spent about $17 million (in today's dollars) bombing Laos, according to Legacies of War.
Asian cluster bomb survivors have been a major part of the momentum behind the treaty, according to this report from the Cluster Munition Coalition.

For more information, see the Cluster Munition Coalition's great website which provides accessible, comprehensive info and stories from cluster bombed communities.

* Updates from Cluster Munition Coalition: • "Cluster Munition Coalition Calls On Governments to Ban Investments in Cluster Munition Producers: Cluster bombs are banned under international law but more states need to ban investment (May 25, 2011):
A new report by Cluster Munition Coalition (CMC) members IKV Pax Christi and Netwerk Vlaanderen  shows that worldwide, 166 private and public financial institutions from 15 countries continue to invest in companies that produce cluster munitions. Since the treaty that bans the weapon – the 2008 Convention on Cluster Munitions – was adopted in May 2008, the amount invested in companies that still produce these weapons totals US$39 billion...Although some countries, including Belgium, Ireland, Luxembourg and New Zealand, have taken the lead in banning investment in these illegal weapons by passing national legislation, many countries and financial institutions are lagging behind...The majority of these financial institutions (128) are from five countries that have not yet joined the Convention: China, Russia, Singapore, South Korea, and the United States, plus Taiwan...However, 38 financial institutions are from countries that have joined the Convention on Cluster Munitions and are continuing to invest in cluster munition producers. These nine countries are: Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands, Switzerland and the United Kingdom.
• "Landmark conference on Convention ends with hope for future progress" (July 1, 2011)

• Update from The Independent: "UK banks fund deadly cluster-bomb industry"(), (Jerome Taylor, Aug. 16, 2011):
British high-street banks, including two institutions that were bailed out by taxpayers, are investing hundreds of millions of pounds in companies that manufacture cluster bombs – despite a growing global ban outlawing the production and trade of the weapons.

The Royal Bank of Scotland, Lloyds TSB, Barclays and HSBC have all provided funding to the makers of cluster bombs, even as international opinion turns against a weapons system that is inherently indiscriminate and routinely maims or kills civilians.

• Update from The Independent, "UK backs bid to overturn ban on cluster bombs" (Nov. 9, 2011):
he Independent has learnt that the UK Government is supporting a Washington-led proposal that would permit the use of cluster bombs as long as they were manufactured after 1980 and had a failure rate of less than one per cent. Arms campaigners say the 1980 cut-off point is arbitrary, and that many modern cluster bombs have far higher failure rates on the field of battle than manufacturers claim.

The international community is gathering in Geneva next week to discuss the proposal, which will be tabled as a new protocol for the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons – a UN treaty from the early 1980s that forbids the use of "excessively injurious" weapons such as mines, booby traps, incendiary devices and blinding lasers.

The world's major cluster bomb manufacturers – which include the US, Israel, Russia, China, South Korea, India and Pakistan – have all refused to sign up to the Convention on Cluster Munitions. They plan to push through a less restrictive treaty in Geneva next week.


rosemerry said...

Thank you for this sad news. What hypocrisy for the USA to even mention their alleged use in Libya, when these figures are shown.

TenThousandThings said...

Thank you Rosemary. One wonders what kind of person would want to invent, manufacture, and use a weapon like a cluster bomb, especially knowing their injuries to children and other civilians.

Jean, TTT