13 September 2011

Governments banning cluster bombs meet in heavily-affected Lebanon

Lebanese dancers at the opening ceremony of the Second Meeting of States Parties to the Convention on Cluster Munitions. Photo credit: John Rodsted/CMC The Second Meeting of States Parties to the Convention on Cluster Munitions is underway in Lebanon, a country with one of the highest numbers of casualties from this deadly indiscriminate weapon.Since 2006, when the UN estimates that Israel fired about four million cluster submunitions into southern Lebanon, this weapon has claimed at least 366 casualties there, many of them ordinary people trying to go about their daily lives. More than 700 people have been killed or injured by cluster munitions in Lebanon since 1975.The Cluster Munition Coalition (CMC) is urging governments to announce in Beirut clear plans and timelines for how they will implement the 66-point action plan agreed on at the First Meeting of States Parties held in Lao PDR last November. This includes how they propose to destroy cluster munitions stockpiles, clear contaminated land, and assistance survivors.The CMC hopes that those that have not yet joined the convention will report on positive steps they too are taking to rid the world of these weapons.Steve Goose, Chair of the CMC, said: "This meeting is an important milestone for this ground-breaking treaty. Governments need to demonstrate that they are acting with the urgency and comprehensiveness that they have promised in eliminating cluster munitions and addressing the effects these inhumane weapons have on civilians all over the world."Iraq and Lebanon are the worst-affected countries in the Middle East/North Africa region, but Libya is the most recently contaminated country, following use of cluster munitions by forces loyal to Muammar Gaddafi earlier this year.From the region only Lebanon and Tunisia have ratified the Convention and are States Parties. Iraq has signed but not yet ratified. Globally, 109 countries have joined the Convention: 62 are already States Parties and another 47 have signed by not yet ratified.Lebanon engaged strongly from the very beginning in the diplomatic Oslo Process to negotiate the Convention. Israel’s large-scale use of cluster munitions on Lebanese territory in August 2006 was a catalyst for the process that created the Convention on Cluster Munitions.Habbouba Aoun of the Landmines Resource Centre in Lebanon, a member of the Cluster Munition Coalition, said: "I think it will be very hard for delegates to come here to Beirut, to visit the communities that have suffered because of this weapon, and not to see with their own eyes the need for this treaty. It is very clear from visiting these villages and towns how cluster munitions do not discriminate between their victims and how they prevent people already devastated by war from rebuilding their lives."I am very proud that Lebanon is hosting this meeting and showing such leadership in ridding the world of this devastating weapon."Representatives from 123 governments have registered for the conference. Close to 250 CMC campaigners from over 60 countries throughout world including survivors from Lao PDR, Serbia, Vietnam, Afghanistan, Ethiopia, Uganda and Cambodia are attending the meeting. Deminers and field operators from many affected countries are also participating."The meeting in Beirut should make it clear that most of the world has thoroughly rejected cluster munitions and only those who don’t care about international standards of behavior will contemplate using these inhumane weapons," said Goose."We expect even more states to join the global team banning this weapon in the coming weeks and month," he added.