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Cluster Munitions ban must not be watered down - Liz Lynne

November 17, 2011 10:59 AM

Liz with cluster bombs

Liz Lynne MEP with unexploded cluster bomblets

The European Parliament has today backed a resolution sponsored by senior Liberal Democrat MEP Liz Lynne condemning any move to water down the international ban on cluster munitions.

The resolution and debate at the Parliament in Strasbourg follows alarming reports that a number of countries including the USA are pushing at a conference in Geneva for a much weaker protocol that will permit stockpiling and use of some cluster munitions.

Cluster bombs and shells are banned by the 2008 Convention on Cluster Munitions (CCM), which has now been signed or ratified by 111 countries, including Britain and most EU nations. The US, China, Russia and some other arms-producing nations have so far refused to sign.

The munitions use clusters of small 'bomblets' which often fail to explode on impact, causing horrific injuries or death to civilians often children who later disturb them.

Today's European Parliament resolution was co-sponsored by UK Liberal Democrat MEP Liz Lynne, a leading voice in the campaign to win European backing for the Oslo Process and the CCM agreement in 2007-2008. Ms Lynne said:

"Right across the political spectrum, MEPs are shocked by this plan to water down one of the great successes of international arms control. It would be a huge step backwards.

"Battlefield evidence from Libya , where Gadaffi loyalists were firing recently-made cluster shells in huge numbers, suggests that the failure rate is still very high.

"Yet many senior generals admit cluster weapons do little to achieve military aims, they just maim or kill huge numbers of civilians, especially children, after the fighting stops.

"This proposed Conventional Weapons protocol would condemn a new generation to horrific injury and death in conflict zones.

"We are strongly calling on countries at the Geneva conference to reject the weasel words of arms manufacturers and abandon this proposal. We want a total ban on the use, stockpiling, production, transfer or export of all cluster munitions."

The European Parliament resolution calls on all EU Member States 'not to adopt, endorse or subsequently ratify any Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons (CCW) protocol allowing for the use of cluster munitions which are prohibited by the CCM'.

ENDS

Notes: The full text of the European Parliament resolution co-authored by Liz Lynne MEP ( ALDE , UK ) can be found at http://www.europarl.europa.eu/sides/getDoc.do?pubRef=-//EP//TEXT+MOTION+B7-2011-0589+0+DOC+XML+V0//EN

The motion follows growing concern as diplomats meet in Geneva from November 14-25 for the Fourth Review Conference of the Convention on Conventional Weapons (CCW), where the main business is a new CCW protocol on cluster munitions backed by the USA that would allow continued use, production, trade, and stockpiling of many of these weapons.

An estimated 98% of injuries caused by cluster munitions are sustained by civilians who later disturb the bomblets. The Cluster Munition Coalition campaigners are alarmed that the proposed CCW protocol would in effect only ban cluster munitions made before 1980. All known incidents of cluster munition use since 2008 (by Thailand, Cambodia, the United States, Georgia and Russia) have involved weapons produced after 1 January 1980. http://www.stopclustermunitions.org/news/?id=3484

Many civilian deaths especially to children have been caused, most recently in Libya where General Gadaffi's forces used large numbers of modern cluster shells in Misrata, Sirte, and Tripoli, with failure rates reportedly close to 10%.

Liberal Democrat MEP Liz Lynne is a longstanding campaigner against cluster munitions. She co-authored a European Parliamentary resolution on banning cluster munitions in October 2007, see link: http://www.europarl.europa.eu/news/expert/infopress_page/028-12353-295-10-43-903-20071024IPR12335-22-10-2007-2007-false/default_en.htm

Liz also ran a successful petition in her West Midlands region constituency to protest to the then Prime Minister against the use of cluster munitions. She launched a Written Declaration in March 2007, following the 8th anniversary of the Ottawa treaty on landmines, as unexploded cluster bomblets are similar to landmines but were not included in this treaty.