Call to ban bombs that lie in wait for children

By Cynthia Banham (February 19, 2003)


The Greens, backed by the Uniting Church, are urging the Australian Government to endorse the International Red Cross's call for a moratorium on the use of cluster bombs by United States-led forces in any attack on Iraq.

The Greens' Senator Kerry Nettle, flanked by leaders of the Uniting Church, said yesterday that the use of more than 14million cluster bombs in the 1991 Gulf War put the lie to the argument by pro-war advocates that an attack on Iraq would be in the humanitarian interests of the Iraqi people.

Cluster bombs, which have a high failure rate, are part of the conventional weaponry of the United States and Britain.

Two years after the 1991 war in Iraq unexploded cluster bombs had been responsible for killing 1600 civilians and injuring 2500 others.

Sixty per cent of victims were children under 15.

Dr Mark Zirnsak, the Uniting Church's social justice development officer, said that last year the US and Britain "categorically" ruled out getting rid of their existing cluster munitions, and shrugged off any obligation for clearing up dud bombs left after any attacks.

Australia does not use cluster bombs as part of its weaponry.

The Uniting Church social justice director, the Reverend David Pargeter, said of the bombs: "When these things hit the ground they don't always go off. We know that up to 10 per cent of these [lie] on the ground waiting to be exploded by a young child, a civilian, picking it up out interest or fascination.

"How can these things be seen as agents of humanitarian relief? It's not possible that these things can bring relief to the citizens of Iraq.

"The Greens will introduce a motion into the Senate in a fortnight calling on the Government to condemn the use of "tactics and munitions that target civilians", and they will ask it to support the Red Cross's call for for a moratorium on the use of cluster bombs.

So far Mexico is the only country to have thrown its weight behind a moratorium.

Read full document Deadly Legacy - Cluster Bomblets and Unexploded Ordnance in Iraq (Word)

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