10 August 2012

In remembrance of cluster bomb victims worldwide

"Today, the dream has become reality. Our land that we were deprived of because of cluster bombs has been returned to us." – Hassan Hashem, pictured on his now safe land. Photo credit: MAG Lebanon(Friday 10 August 2012): The CMC begins its one-month count down to the Third Meeting of States Parties to the Convention on Cluster Munitions today, by remembering the tens of thousands of people whose lives have been changed forever by the damage cluster bombs cause.This weekend marks the sixth anniversary of horrific cluster bomb strikes in Lebanon. This week has also seen campaigners in Georgia mark the fourth anniversary of cluster bomb strikes during the 2008 week-long conflict with Russia. These are poignant anniversaries that are important reminders of the deplorable harm these weapons cause to innocent people, and of why they should never be used again.During the month-long conflict that had dominated headlines in the summer of 2006, Israel dropped about four million cluster submunitions on southern Lebanon, the majority in the last three days.His Excellency Dr Adnan Mansour, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Emigrants of Lebanon, and current President of the Convention on Cluster Munitions, told the CMC of the impact this had on his country."These devastating strikes resulted in hundreds of thousands of deadly duds and more than 100 people killed or injured in the first six weeks following the ceasefire," he said.In the years since the conflict, the legacy of unexploded submunitions in southern Lebanon has become clear – the Cluster Munition Monitor reports that 654 casualties have been recorded up to December 2011, of which one in five were children.The indiscriminate impact of this large-scale use of cluster munitions acted as a catalyst for action, and contributed greatly to the sense of humanitarian urgency to ban future use of cluster bombs. Within six months of the conflict, talks began under the Oslo Process that ultimately led to the agreement of the lifesaving Convention of Cluster Munitions."It is heartening to see the difference this humanitarian Convention is already making to people's lives on the ground," H.E. Dr Mansour added."Seeing such progress being made by countries destroying their stocks of cluster munitions, preventing future devastation at the hands of these weapons, is also a huge achievement. It is our sincere hope that the momentum behind this global drive to rid the world of cluster munitions continues, and we see a final end to the damage caused by these weapons within our lifetimes. I wish to call on all states that have not yet joined this lifesaving Convention, to do so," H.E. Dr Mansour said.On this anniversary, the CMC remembers all these victims – the loss of family members, of livelihoods, of limbs and, for many, the loss of lives. It is in their memory, and with a determination to ensure that cluster bombs can never again be used, that CMC members worldwide are working hard this month to encourage their governments to come to the Third Meeting of States Parties ready to show what they are doing to reach this shared goal.Much is indeed already being done. In southern Lebanon, for example, huge amounts of land has been cleared and returned to villagers, and the number of new cluster bomb victims has fallen sharply. The six causalities from explosive remnants of war reported by the Cluster Munition Monitor in 2011 marks a significant decrease from the 25 casualties reported by the Lebanon Mine Action Center (LMAC) in 2010.Habbouba Aoun, CMC campaigner from the Landmines Resource Centre for Lebanon said: "After six years, and much suffering, I am so pleased that the end to the terror cluster munitions caused in my country now seems to be in sight. I am also proud that Lebanon has been a champion of the Convention that bans these devastating weapons."Lebanon, which signed the Convention on Cluster Munitions in 2008, and ratified on 5 November 2010, has actively promoted the Treaty as president of the Convention since the Second Meeting of States Parties in Beirut last September. Lebanon will hand over presidency to Norway at the Third Meeting of States Parties in Oslo next month. Georgia is yet to accede to the Convention.While over half the world has already signed up to the global ban, all states must now get on board this humanitarian treaty which prohibits the use, production, stockpiling and transfer of cluster munitions and sets deadlines for the clearance of cluster munition remnants and the destruction of stockpiled cluster munitions. It also includes obligations for assistance to victims of cluster munitions.