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Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Russia is Using Cluster Bombs

I received an email from Survivor Corps asking if I would blog about Russia's use of cluster bombs. Here is the news story:
Russia Has Dropped Cluster Bombs on civilian areas in the neighboring country of Georgia, killing at least 11 civilians and wounding dozens more. On August 7, 2008, Russia began an armed offensive against Georgia over South Ossetia, a region long recognized as part of Georgia but home to an ethnic minority with close ties to Russia.
What are cluster bombs?
Cluster munitions are large weapons which are deployed from the air and from the ground and release dozens or hundreds of smaller submunitions. Submunitions released by air-dropped cluster bombs are most often called “bomblets,” while those delivered from the ground by artillery or rockets are usually referred to as “grenades.”
What is the problem with cluster bombs?
Air-dropped or ground-launched, they cause two major humanitarian problems and risks to civilians. First, their widespread dispersal means they cannot distinguish between military targets and civilians so the humanitarian impact can be extreme, especially when the weapon is used in or near populated areas.

Many submunitions fail to detonate on impact and become de facto antipersonnel mines killing and maiming people long after the conflict has ended. These duds are more lethal than antipersonnel mines; incidents involving submunition duds are much more likely to cause death than injury.
Does the U.S. use them?
Russia’s Use of Cluster Munitions is the first known use of the weapon since 2006, when they were used during the conflict between Israel and Hezbollah in Lebanon. The extremely high number of civilian deaths attributed to cluster munitions in that conflict initiated an international movement to ban cluster munitions, called the Oslo Process.

The Oslo Process culminated with a new international treaty in May of 2008 banning the use, trade and stockpiling of cluster munitions. Survivor Corps was one of the 12 lead organizations that worked with campaigners, governments and intergovernmental organizations to secure the treaty. Survivor Corps also led the charge to include provisions in the treaty requiring governments to assist survivors of the weapon, a revolutionary achievement in a weapons treaty. So far, 107 countries have adopted the treaty, which will open for signatures in December of 2008. Unfortunately neither Russia nor United States are among them.
What can we do about it?
Join others from around the world by signing the People’s Treaty to say that YOU want to ban cluster bombs forever. Your Senators must tell the military to stop using cluster bombs, and your Senators like hearing from people like you! Tell your Senators to ban cluster bombs.
Read more about Survivor Corps.

Mark Koenig (who will be with us in September) blogged about the treaty and encouraged us to take action.

The Presbyterian News Service published a story about the effects of cluster bombs in Lebanon.
For two hours, Mahmoud Yacoub sat disoriented in a field, waiting for help to come.

The 36‑year‑old farmer had taken his herd of goats out at about 4 o’clock in the afternoon when he stepped on something that exploded. Bleeding and in pain, he made his way to a small shrub, where he sat and waited for rescue.

At first he thought it would come immediately, but no one showed up. So for two hours, Yacoub said he felt he was going to die.

Villagers heard the explosion and went to the site, only to find dead goats. Yacoub was missing, but his neighbors were too scared to venture off in search of him, fearful of more deadly cluster bomb blasts....

....The unexploded bombs, mainly in southern Lebanon, are the result of the 34‑day conflict during July and August between Israel and the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah. The fighting began after Israel launched an offensive against Lebanon following the capture of two of its soldiers by Hezbollah, and ended through a United Nations‑brokered cease‑fire.

Scattered in the rubble of fallen homes, in areas where children play, and in the fields where farmers make their living from olive and citrus trees, the bombs lie silently waiting.

More than one million cluster bombs and more than 100,000 unexploded ordnance are currently on the ground in Lebanon, said Christina Bennike, head of mission for Danish ACT International member DanChurchAid (DCA). (Read More)



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