Humanitarian concerns stall cluster bomb accord

November 22, 2011

Religious leaders and disarmament campaigners hailed the decision in
Geneva by 50 countries to derail a proposal backed by the United States,
Russia, China, India and Israel to create a new global accord on
cluster bombs, contending that it did not meet humanitarian concerns.

The
proposal, put forth during the Fourth Review Conference of the
Convention on Conventional Weapons (CCW), which ended November 25,
called for the destruction of all cluster munitions produced before
1980. However, it would have allowed the use of munitions with a failure
rate of 1 percent or less, as well as those with only one safeguard
mechanism.

"The bottom line is the use of these weapons would have
continued in some form, and we look to the day when these weapons are
banned," said Archbishop Silvano Tomasi, the Vatican's permanent
representative to the UN.

A cluster bomb releases smaller
bomb­lets designed to kill enemy personnel and damage vehicles and enemy
munitions. The Oslo Convention on Cluster Muni­tions, enacted in 2010
and ratified by 111 countries, imposed a comprehensive ban on cluster
bombs and mandated the destruction of existing stockpiles.

 Despite
changes introduced by the U.S. in the last hour of the two-week
conference, representatives from many countries said the draft proposal
did not "address fundamental human concerns," in addition to allowing
for continued production and use of cluster munitions.

"It is so
important that we take all necessary measures to eliminate these
weapons; this is of great responsibility for any humanitarian
organization. This is the way we express our love by taking care of our
neighbor," said Tony D'Costa, general secretary of Pax Christi Ireland.

"The
bar set by the Oslo Convention is really high, and we have to continue
to persuade other countries to come up to that level, including the big
powers," said D'Costa. The five countries that supported the failed CCW
proposal have not signed the Oslo Convention.

Steffen Kongstad,
Norway's representative at the conference and one of the original
architects of the Oslo Con­vention, said asking other parties in the CCW
to endorse continued use of weapons that were well documented to have
serious and unacceptable humanitarian consequences "was a bit too
much."  —ENInews