Monday, February 18, 2008

Stop cluster bombs

An international disarmament conference aimed at hammering out a draft agreement to ban cluster munitions kicked off in Wellington today, with representatives from 100 countries and more than 100 NGOs in attendance. It's a good example of New Zealand working with likeminded countries to change international law for the better, and if successful should see a draft Treaty to be forwarded to a conference in Dublin in May, and signed in Oslo by the end of the year.

As for why we're doing this, it's because cluster bombs are a totally indiscriminate weapon which attack an area without any distinction between military and civilian targets. Worse, high designed rates of failure mean that every cluster bomb effectively creates a minefield, creating a lasting danger to civilian lives long after the conflict has ended. For example, Israeli cluster bombs left over from their war on Lebanon in 2006 killed over 200 Lebanese civilians last year, and until they are cleaned up will continue to exact a toll in human life and limbs. It's a similar story in Iraq, Afghanistan, Bosnia, Serbia, Vietnam, and 19 other countries around the world. Antipersonnel mines were banned in 1997 for being a long-lasting and indiscriminate threat to civilians; cluster bombs should be treated in exactly the same way.

If you'd like to show your support for a ban, then the Aotearoa New Zealand Cluster Munition Coalition has an online petition you can sign here.