Nordic church related agencies call for a freeze and a new international treaty prohibiting cluster munitions
DanChurchAid (DCA) and Norwegian Church Aid (NCA) jointly call for all governments to immediately adopt a freeze on use, trade, production and acquisition of cluster munitions. As church related agencies, we are driven by our faith that life is sacred, because we believe that all people are created and loved by God. Cluster munitions maim and kill indiscriminately.
They create the effect of an unmarked minefield and there is no "safe" place to use them. We encourage all governments to commit to a new international treaty prohibiting cluster munitions and to participate in a new process to develop and negotiate this treaty.
We find the matter of cluster munitions too urgent to accept a further prolonging of the CCW discussions on issue on cluster munitions that have failed for five years to deliver a solution. In that time, countless persons have died or been injured by cluster munitions Cluster munitions endanger civilians during and in the aftermath of conflicts. As they spread a large amount of submunitions over a wide area they virtually guarantee civilian casualties when fired into populated areas. Also, cluster munitions leave a large number of unexploded submunitions that become de facto landmines, killing and maiming people for decades after the termination of conflict. They constitute a violation of the right to life, health and property.
During the recent war in Lebanon, both Hizbollah and Israel used cluster munitions. During the last 72 hours of the conflict, Israel used air and artillery to launch a countless number of cluster munition strikes into South Lebanon, leaving over one million unexploded cluster submunitions behind.
There is clear documentation that cluster munitions have posed a deadly threat to noncombatants in every conflict in which they have been used, and have repeatedly caused excessive harm to civilians and especially to children, who often make up a large proportion of the casualties. In 6 months after the ceasefire in Lebanon in 2006, at least 200 civilians were killed or injured by unexploded cluster munitions.
Technical approaches to improve reliability might be able to address only the post-conflict effects, and do not address the wide area effects of the weapon that make cluster munition attacks indiscriminate. As recent conflicts in Iraq and Lebanon have shown, the reliability of self-destruct mechanisms has yet to be proven effective. Since the ceasefire in Lebanon large numbers of unexploded submunitions with self-destruct mechanisms have been found.
Educating the public about the dangers posed by cluster munitions alone will not solve the problem. Due to their indiscriminate effects on non-combatants, the use of these cluster munitions, as with landmines, is incompatible with International Humanitarian Law. As clearly demonstrated in recent conflicts, e.g. Kosovo, Iraq, Afghanistan and Lebanon, the lack of respect and non-implementation of the existing rules of International Humanitarian Law have proven inadequate to provide protection to civilians from cluster munitions, which are clearly prone to indiscriminate use and indiscriminate effect.
We therefore call on our own states as well as other states participating in the Oslo Conference on Cluster Munitions to recognize the urgent need for a new treaty prohibiting cluster munitions entirely as a weapon incompatible with the compliance with International Humanitarian Law.
As church related agencies, we appeal to civilians as well as military personnel to exert maximum pressure on decision makers and authorities to secure a guarantee that any use, stockpiling, trade or production and acquisition of acquisition must be seen as deeply immoral and in contravention of International Law and the conduct of civilized nations.
Henrik Stubkjær, General Secretary, DanChurchAid
Atle Sommerfeldt, General Secretary, Norwegian Church Aid.
Von: 21.02.2007 www.reliefweb.int