Cluster Bombs

Lethal remnants of war.

Another RR in CiF today by George Monbiot on the “new review of conventional weapons treaty” which is happening in Geneva today.

Many human rights groups including Amnesty and the Red Cross, UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, along with our own Labour party’s International Development secretary Hilary Benn, are calling for a ban on the use of cluster bombs in populated areas.  In spite of these calls, the likes of the US and the UK governments feel that the use of these munitions is legitimate warfare and that a treaty to outlaw them is unnecessary so today they will try to block any attempts to implement one.

The Geneva convention should already provide protection because, as Monbiot explained in his article, the convention prohibits the indiscriminate and excessive use of force and forbids military strikes which have a likelihood of causing civilian death and injury.  Cluster bombs quite clearly, in my view,  fall under this category.  Although, of course, this protocol has never stopped the American and Israeli military from using this type of weapon so a new treaty is unlikely to make a difference to their style of warfare.

Cluster bombs have the same humanitarian impact as landmines and they leave the same legacy.  They deserve the same attention.  They should be made illegal.  Without a doubt.


5 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by misslionheart on November 7, 2006 at 11:34 pm

    Is there a link between cluster bombs and Clustermaps?


  2. (Sigh) No dear.


  3. Posted by misslionheart on November 8, 2006 at 11:26 pm



  4. European Court of Human Rights to hear cases about human rights and international military operations

    Application nos.71412/01 Behrami and Behrami v. France
    78166/01 Saramati v. France, Norway and Germany

    On 15th November 2006, the Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights will hear two cases concerning the accountability of European states for the acts of their military personnel when participating in operations overseas.

    The applications relate to the failure of the French, German and Norwegian military contingents of the international security presence in Kosovo (“KFOR”) to comply with the European Convention on Human Rights during their participation in multinational security operations in Kosovo in 2000-2001. In addition to those three Governments, the United Nations have also provided comments and an additional six European governments have submitted observations to the Court arguing that the European Convention on Human Rights does not apply to them when they engage in military operations abroad.

    NATO’s legacy of unexploded cluster bombs kills and blinds Kosovan children

    The dangers posed by the unexploded cluster bombs left behind after NATO bombing campaigns have been in the headlines this week. Most of the victims are children.

    The Behrami application concerns a family who returned to Kosovo in 1999 after 9 years as refugees in Switzerland. Despite being expressly mandated to ensure a safe and secure environment for returning refugees, French KFOR troops failed to take any steps to remove NATO cluster bombs which they knew were in a specified location in the hills near Mitrovica in Kosovo. One child died and his brother lost his sight and is permanently disfigured. French KFOR troops were aware of the risk posed to the local children by these specific NATO cluster bombs , but they took no steps even to inform the local families as to the grave dangers these cluster bombs posed, or fence off or mark the area, much less to dispose of the unexploded ordnance. They said it was “not a priority” for them. (When unexploded WWII bombs were found in a park in Lille, France in 2005 the park was closed and teams of expert mine clearers moved in immediately – Guardian 27 July 2005)

    Detention without judicial review

    In the aftermath of the 1999 NATO campaign the UN Security Council authorised the establishment of UNMIK, a UN operation which would administer Kosovo until some other solution could be found. By the summer of 2001 the UN’s Special Representative in Kosovo had found that the “emergency phase is largely over”. New judges had been appointed and teams of international judges and prosecutors had been brought in to Kosovo to ensure the fair administration of justice for all.

    Despite this, the applicant in Saramati, was one of many Kosovans detained on the order not of a local or international judge but of the KFOR Commanders (first Norwegian and then French). He was held for six months without any legal basis or judicial oversight. This form of ‘executive detention’, which occurred on the orders of both the military and the UN, without any of the procedural safeguards required by the ECHR, was bitterly resented in Kosovo. It seriously undermined all the efforts being made to ensure that the international presence gained acceptance and ‘credibility’ amongst the local populace.

    Accountability before the European Court of Human Rights

    The 1999 NATO intervention in Kosovo was declared to have been made to protect the people of Kosovo from further human rights violations in the region. The European Convention of Human Rights was introduced by the international community into the law of Kosovo, which expressly stated that the military and the civilian presence would be bound by its standards.

    These cases seek to ensure that the governments are held to account for the failure to prevent the death and maiming of the Behrami children, and for the detention of Mr. Saramati without legal basis or judicial oversight.

    The key question which the court will decide is whether the European Convention on Human Rights applies at all to the military operations of European troops abroad– or whether – as the Governments are arguing- that no international operations of this kind could ever be mounted in the future if the participating Governments were told that they would be held accountable before the European Court for any violations of human rights they committed in the course of their military operations.

    (It should also be noted that the applicants have requested that the Court allow them to withdraw their case against Germany but are awaiting a final decision on this).


  5. Thanks for that information.
    A new International law is coming into force which demands countries to clean up their unexploded bombs:
    Good but not good enough. Cluster bombs at the point of use alone cause indiscriminate devastation to civilian life because of their widespread “footprint“, not to mention the unexploded weapons fallout that is left. They should be banned.


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