Clear Path International Supports Congressional Bill Limiting the Use and Export of Cluster Bombs
Clear Path International has announced it supports a bill introduced February 14 by Senators Patrick Leahy (D-Vermont) and Diane Feinstein (D-California) that would restrict the use of cluster bombs by the United States and its allies.
As one of the most active U.S.-based humanitarian mine action organizations operating in central Vietnam, where millions of cluster munitions were used and where they still kill and maim, Clear Path said the bill, though not an outright ban, is a significant first step in protecting civilians.
Cluster bomb projectiles - which range in size from that of a baseball, flashlight battery or soda can - are packed into artillery shells or bombs dropped from aircraft to destroy airfields or tanks and soldiers. A single bomb typically scatters some 200 to 600 of the explosives over an area the size of a football field.
Usually 10 to 15 percent - but in some cases up to 80 percent- of the devices fail to explode immediately. These may detonate later at the slightest disturbance. The impact on children is especially bad because the tiny bombs are usually an eye-catching yellow with little parachutes attached.
Last year, Clear Path International responded to 88 new accidents on Vietnam's central coast, many of them due to cluster bombs. Nearly 40 percent, or two out of five, of the victims were children. Thirty-six victims died from their wounds. It has been more than three decades since the end of the Vietnam War.
"The injuries we have seen from cluster bombs are just horrifying," said Martha Hathaway, Clear Path's executive director. "This bill is an important step in limiting the use of a weapon that claims too many unintended victims."
The legislation introduced by Leahy and Feinstein, called the "Cluster Munitions Civilian Protection Act of 2007," proposes that no funds be appropriated to any federal department or agency for the use, sale or transfer of cluster munitions unless the munitions have a proven wartime detonation rate of 99 percent; their use is on clearly defined military targets not inhabited by civilians; and there exist plans to clean up those that fail to explode within 30 days of their use.
Two dozen countries have joined in a move to negotiate an international treaty to curb the use of cluster bombs. Austria has taken the lead in formally asking the international conference on controlling conventional weapons, under way in Geneva, to start negotiations on an accord to legally regulate the weapons, which were widely used by the United States or other forces in recent conflicts in the Balkans, Afghanistan, Iraq and Lebanon.
So far 24 countries, including Germany, Mexico, Argentina and New Zealand, have joined in the request for the negotiations. The other countries supporting the call for a new treaty are Bosnia-Herzegovina, Chile, Costa Rica, Czech Republic, Denmark, Hungary, Ireland, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Peru, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Switzerland and the Vatican.
Based in the Unites States, Clear Path International assists landmine and bomb accident survivors in Vietnam, Cambodia and along the Thai-Burma border. It also sends shipments of medical equipment, orthopedic devices and surgical supplies to hospitals in mine-affected countries around the world. Learn more about Clear Path International at www.cpi.org.
Von: 15.02.2007, www.alertnet.org, by Imbert Matthee