Lebanon: victims support global cluster munition ban
Cluster bomb survivors came to Beirut from the four corners of the globe to drum up international support for the Convention on Cluster Munitions (CCM) banning the use, production, transfer and stockpiling of these weapons. On the last day of the Second Meeting of State Parties to the Convention hosted by Lebanon in mid-September, cluster munition victims all delivered the same message: "Act now. Join the ban on cluster munitions."
The victims were addressing the representatives of 130 States, of which 67 had either not signed the Convention, or else had signed but not ratified it.
"We urge States to take action immediately and to alleviate the suffering of cluster munition survivors. We cluster munitions victims want the same opportunities as everyone to live, work and be part of life in our communities." The speaker was Aynalem Zenebe, a cluster munition victim from Ethiopia. She was reading a declaration on behalf of survivors of these weapons, which are still wreaking havoc in at least 21 countries in Africa, the Middle East, Asia and Europe.
Cluster-victims-turned-campaigners from Afghanistan, Cambodia, Laos, Lebanon, Serbia, Tajikistan, Vietnam and other countries shared their painful experiences of pain, courage and survival.
"At first, I wanted to die… my life was totally destroyed and I did not want to live anymore," said Thi, 53, a Vietnamese farmer who lost his right arm and leg in a cluster munition explosion while cultivating his rice field. After struggling for years to overcome his trauma and handicap, Thi is now the proud father of three grown-up children and is dedicated to his advocacy work for cluster victims.
He has established a club in his home village where victims can get moral support, share their painful experiences and seek help to improve their lives. "All countries in the world should join the treaty now. The existence of this weapon is a humanitarian offence."
Losing both legs in a mine explosion has not stopped Cambodian Tun from roaming the world, acting as the mouthpiece for thousands of mine and cluster victims. "We can't wait until the whole world joins the cluster treaty. We must move forward and press for a mine and cluster free planet. The main point is to keep hope in the future."
Tun has come a long way since the day in 1981 when he wanted to commit suicide after the explosion. It took him years to adapt to his new condition and acquire a vocation. He is now a skilful carpenter, specialized in the making of wheelchairs for the handicapped. "I have made my own," he said, pointing at the wheelchair he was sitting on. "And I design wheelchairs for all people of Cambodia to use, in different sizes and shapes to suit adults, children and the elderly."
The Convention on Cluster Munitions sets time-bound commitments regarding clearance and stockpile destruction, provides for a mechanism to measure progress with assistance to victims and calls for all the nations of the world to sign up to it. Although the main producers of cluster munitions such as the United States, China and Israel have not signed the convention, the firm response to the use of cluster bombs on the part of those countries that have signed and ratified is steadily increasing the stigma attached to these indiscriminate weapons.