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Cluster munitions: ICRC urges States to adopt strong treaty in Dublin

14-05-2008 News Release 08/79

Geneva (ICRC) – States preparing to negotiate a new treaty banning cluster munitions that cause unacceptable harm to civilians must act decisively to address the scourge of these weapons, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said today.

More than 100 States will meet at a diplomatic conference in Dublin from 19 to 30 May, a key step in a process that started in Oslo in February 2007 and has been growing in momentum ever since.

" Cluster munitions are weapons that never stop killing, " said ICRC president Jakob Kellenberger, who is due to speak at the opening of the Dublin conference. " In the course of its work for people affected by armed conflict, the ICRC has often witnessed horrific impact of these weapons on civilians. States should now conclude a treaty that will prohibit inaccurate and unreliable cluster munitions, provide for their clearance and ensure assistance to their victims, " he said.

Some cluster munitions can scatter as many as 650 explosive submunitions over an area exceeding 30,000 square metres. They are notoriously inaccurate and often fail to explode on impact as intended.

In more than 20 countries, unexploded cluster submunitions have effectively rendered vast areas as dangerous as minefields. Their deadly legacy can continue for generations. Laos, for example, the world's worst affected country, is still struggling to deal with the deadly legacy of an estimated 270 million submunitions dropped there in the 1960s and 1970s. Tens of millions failed to explode on impact and go on killing people today.

Without urgent concerted international action, the human toll of cluster munitions could become far worse than that of anti-personnel landmines, which are now banned by 156 States. Billions of cluster submunitions are currently in the stockpiles of States. Many models are old, inaccurate and unreliable. But unlike anti-personnel landmin es, which were in the hands of virtually all armed forces, only about 75 States currently possess cluster munitions.

" We can act now to prevent human suffering on a potentially massive scale, " said Mr Kellenberger. " States must seize this important opportunity to prevent cluster munitions from killing and maiming countless other civilians. "

    

    

 For further information, please contact:  

 Claudia McGoldrick, ICRC Geneva, tel. +41 22 730 2063 or +41 79 217 3216