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Cluster munitions: ICRC hosts meeting of experts

17-04-2007 News Release 07/50

Geneva (ICRC) – The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) is holding an international meeting of experts on cluster munitions from 18 to 20 April in Montreux, Switzerland.

The meeting will bring together invited experts from governments and relevant organizations to discuss a range of humanitarian, legal and military issues related to these weapons, with a view to reducing the humanitarian consequences of their use.

" The aim of the meeting is to contribute expert insights to ongoing international efforts to address the unacceptable human costs of cluster munitions, " said Peter Herby, head of the ICRC's Arms Unit. " We believe that in-depth dialogue among relevant experts with broad-ranging views can help identify and build support for solutions which better protect civilians from the effects of such weapons. "

The ICRC meeting will build upon previous intergovernmental discussions, addressing the following topics:

  • A historical overview of the use and humanitarian impact of cluster munitions;

  • The military role of cluster munitions and their technical evolution;

  • Possible future alternatives to cluster munitions;

  • The adequacy or inadequacy of existing international humanitarian law;

  • Potential technical developments to improve reliability and accuracy;

  • An appropriate regulatory framework for the use of cluster munitions;

  • Next steps at national and international levels.

Although a number of States have begun reviewing their policies on the use of cluster munitions, there has been no effective internat ional response. In 2006, the ICRC called on States to end the use of inaccurate and unreliable cluster munitions and to prohibit the use of cluster munitions in populated areas. It also called for a new international humanitarian law agreement to effectively address the problem.

Cluster munitions are air- or ground-launched canisters that can contain up to 650 individual sub-munitions. Although the sub-munitions are generally designed to explode on impact, they often fail to do so, leaving vast amounts of lethal explosives on the ground. When they are used in populated areas, cluster munitions raise particular concerns due to their area-wide effects. A cluster munition can release its sub-munitions over an area of up to several thousand square meters. These weapons have had a severe, long-term impact on civilians in most of the conflicts in which they have been used on a large scale, including Afghanistan, Iraq, Kosovo, Laos and Lebanon.

  For further information, please contact:
  Claudia McGoldrick, ICRC Geneva, tel. +41 22 730 2063 or +41 79 217 3216