Monday, May 19, 2008

Cluster bomb conference opens in Dublin

Today marks the beginning of a 12 day conference aimed at producing a treaty banning the use, production and stockpiling of cluster bombs. The conference, being held at Dublin's Croke Park, home of the Gaelic athletic Association, is being attended by over one hundred nations. Not in attendance are the usual suspects most notably Russia, Israel, Pakistan, China, USA and India. Any treaty agreed will only be legally binding on the signatories.

Why cluster bombs ? Cluster bombs are a particularly nasty weapon. A bomb is dropped or a shell is fired in a specific way so that the bomb explodes mid air above the battle zone. This sends hundreds of miniature bombs raining down in all directions. Not surprisingly this inaccurate type of weapon causes many civilian casualties. However the real damage to civilians is done by unexploded bomblets. These miniature bombs can be left unexploded for decades. Amazingly approximately 300 people a year are killed in Vietnam by cluster bombs left by the US military since the early 70s. 18 civilians have been killed and 136 wounded by cluster bombs in the Lebanon since the end of the second war in august 2006. Other countries suffering greatly include Iraq, Afghanistan, Laos, Kosovo and Western Sahara. Most of the victims are either farmers, whom accidentally trigger a bomblet whilst working the land or children whom come across one and interfere out of curiosity.

Of all the nations in attendance not all are in agreement about the text of the treaty. Several want to see amendments to the draft that at present states that signatories will never:

"(a) Use cluster munitions;

"(b) Develop, produce, otherwise acquire, stockpile, retain or transfer to anyone, directly or indirectly, cluster munitions;

"(c) Assist, encourage or induce anyone to engage in any activity prohibited to a state party under this convention."

We will know toward the end of the week the likelihood of the objective of the conference being fulfilled, this being to reach an acceptable text for all the signatories so that the treaty can be signed at a ceremony in Oslo in December. Gubu World will report on the progress of the conference and pay particular attention to the nations eager to see the draft treaty watered down.

No comments: