Call for ban on cluster bombs
By Kathleen Carmody
The Australian network of the International Campaign to Ban Landmines (ICBL) has called for an immediate moratorium on the use of cluster bombs in Afghanistan.
Cluster bombs, which the US has admitted dropping over Afghanistan and which were also used in conflicts in the Balkans and Iraq, have a high failure rate and can lie unexploded across wide areas, ready to detonate on contact – in effect becoming landmines, killing civilians even years after a conflict has ended.
The national coordinator of ICBL Australia, Sr Patricia Pak Poy, said cluster bombs had a failure rate as high as 30 per cent, meaning that thousands of unexploded bombs were left on the ground.
“These bomblets can explode, killing innocent civilians, aid workers or soldiers from either side,” she said.
The Australian network of ICBL considers such killing illegal and unjustified, Sr Pak Poy said.
“In essence these bomblets are acting like landmines.”
Because of the appearance of the bomblets – some are orange-yellow, drink can-sized objects – children are particularly drawn to them.
There has been also been concern that “dud” bomblets closely resemble the small yellow food aid parcels being airdropped on Afghanistan. The International Red Cross has also called for a ban on cluster bombs, claiming that they were responsible for the killing or wounding of more than 150 civilians in the former Yugoslavia long after the bombing stopped.
It’s also estimated that nearly 2,000 Kuwaiti and Iraqi civilians were killed by cluster bombs that burst after the 1991 Gulf War.
The ICBL has urged the Pentagon and all parties to the conflict to confirm that they do not intend to use landmines in Afghanistan.
The International Campaign to Ban Landmines, launched in 1992, brings together humanitarian, medical, religious, environmental and other groups in more than 90 countries who work locally and internationally to ban antipersonnel mines.
In 1997, 122 countries including Australia signed a treaty that bans the use, production, stockpiling and transfer of antipersonnel mines.