WVCBL joins the U.S. Campaign to Ban Cluster Bombs To Call for U.S. to Reject Any Possible Use of Cluster Munitions in Syria Washington, D.C.— TheWest Virginia Campaign to Ban Landmines and Cluster Bombs joins the U.S. Campaign to Ban Cluster Bombs to call on the United States to refrain from using any form of cluster munition in possible military actions in Syria. The Campaign also supports the international Cluster Munition Coalition (CMC) in its call on the 112 countries that have joined the Convention on Cluster Munitions to help ensure that these weapons are not used by the U.S. in Syria.
According to the New York Times, several U.S. officials have said that Syria strike plans include use of Tomahawk cruise missiles launched by the U.S. Navy. Tomahawk cruise missiles can carry a variety of different kinds of warheads; one Tomahawk model has a capacity for a weapons payload of 166 BLU-97 cluster submunitions.
“Cluster bombs indiscriminately kill and maim innocent civilians—the same civilians the U.S. is trying to protect,” said Zach Hudson, coordinator of the U.S. Campaign to Ban Cluster Bombs. “Regardless of whether you support or oppose U.S. intervention in Syria, cluster bombs simply should not be used. Their humanitarian toll far outweighs any military utility.” “Any conceivable use of cluster bombs is outweighed by the moral consequences” says Nora Sheets, WVCBL coordinator. “Cluster munitions are unreliable and pose an unacceptable danger to civilians. Especially tragic is the indiscriminate nature of these weapons leading to the destruction of innocent life, especially children, during and after wartime hostilities have ceased.”
The CMC has repeatedly condemned Syria’s use of cluster munitions as have more than 100 states, including dozens like the U.S. who are not yet States Parties to the Convention on Cluster Munitions. In October 2012, the then-Permanent Representative of the U.S. to the United Nations, Ambassador Susan Rice, said that cluster bomb use by Syrian government forces was an example of “atrocities” by the Syrian regime. In May 2013, the United States also voted for a UN General Assembly resolution that strongly condemned Syria’s use of cluster munitions.
“The United States has condemned cluster munitions use by other countries like Syria,” said Hudson. “It would be entirely hypocritical for the administration to now use this weapon.”
The last reported use of a cluster munition by the U.S. was in December 2009 in Yemen, when one or more Tomahawk cruise missiles loaded with BLU-97 bomblets struck the hamlet of al-Majala in the southern Abyan province. The strike killed at least 41 civilians and at least four more civilians were killed and 13 wounded by unexploded bomblets after the attack. Four years later, the site of the attack remains contaminated by cluster munition remnants. The United States also used Tomahawk cruise missiles with BLU-97 bomblets in strikes in Iraq between 1991 and 2003, in Serbia in 1999, and in Afghanistan and Sudan in August 1998.
“We call on all states that have joined the Convention on Cluster Munitions to urge the U.S. to explicitly rule out any use of cluster munitions in military operations in Syria,” said CMC Director Sarah Blakemore. “Any use of these weapons would contradict the purpose of the Convention on Cluster Munitions to prevent the suffering and casualties caused by cluster munitions.”
Under Article 21 of the Convention on Cluster Munitions, all States Parties have a legal obligation to discourage non-signatories from using cluster munitions. States Parties have repeatedly reiterated their obligation under the convention to “discourage in every way” any use of cluster munitions.
Neither the United States nor Syria is a States Party to the 2008 Convention on Cluster Munitions. The U.S. has joined the 1993 Chemical Weapons Convention, but Syria has not.
“Cluster munitions used by the Syrian regime have already caused numerous civilian casualties as they have done in every other conflict in which they have been used,” said Blakemore. “It makes absolutely no sense to use banned weapons to retaliate for the use of another banned weapon.”
Under the 2008 U.S. Department of Defense policy, by the end of 2018 the U.S. will no longer use cluster munitions that result in more than one percent unexploded ordnance (UXO). The policy requires Combatant Commanders to approve the use of cluster munitions that exceed a one percent unexploded ordnance rate. The BLU-97 bomblet does not meet this criteria of a less than one percent failure rate. In addition, U.S. law requires that recipients of U.S. transfers of cluster munitions agree the cluster munitions “will not be used where civilians are known to be present.”
Nora D. Sheets Coordinator/WVCBL: West Virginia Campaign to Ban Landmines and Cluster Bombs/PSALM: Proud Students
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About the U.S. Campaign to Ban Landmines and Cluster Bombs (USCBL):
The USCBL, currently coordinated by Handicap International, is a coalition of thousands of people and U.S. non-governmental organizations working to: (1) ensure no U.S. use, production, or transfer of antipersonnel landmines and cluster munitions; (2) encourage the U.S. to join the 1997 Mine Ban Treaty and the 2008 Convention on Cluster Munitions; and (3) secure high levels of U.S. government support for clearance and assistance programs for victims of landmines, cluster munitions and other explosive remnants of war.
The USCBL is the U.S. affiliate of the Cluster Munitions Coalition (CMC). Cluster bombs (cluster munitions) are large weapons which are deployed from the air by aircraft including fighters, bombers and helicopters. These bombs open in mid-air and release dozens or hundreds of smaller submunitions.
About the Cluster Munition Coalition (CMC):
The CMC is an international coalition of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) working in around 100 countries to encourage urgent action against cluster bombs. The CMC facilitates NGO efforts worldwide to educate governments, the public and the media about the problems of cluster munitions and to urge universalization and full implementation of the 2008 Convention on Cluster Munitions. http://www.stopclustermunitions.org/
ABOUT WVCBL: West Virginia Campaign to Ban Landmines and Cluster Bombs are citizens and students (PSALM: Proud Students Against Landmines and Cluster Bombs) who for 14 years have been committed to educating the public about the devastation caused by landmines and cluster munitions and the indiscriminate nature of these weapons leading to the destruction of innocent life, especially children, after wartime hostilities have ceased. WVCBL and PSALM students are working members of the United States, International Campaign to Ban Landmines and Cluster Munitions and the Cluster Munition Coalition.
•For more information on the United States position on the Convention on Cluster Munitions please visit the Country Profile on the Cluster Munition Monitor website: www.stopclustermunitions.org
•For more information about the WEST VIRGINIA CAMPAIGN TO BAN LANDMINES AND CLUSTER BOMBS visit: www.wvcbl.org
About the Convention on Cluster Munitions (CCM):
The Convention on Cluster Munitions bans the use, production, stockpiling and transfer of cluster munitions and requires countries to clear affected areas within 10 years and destroy stockpiles of the weapon within eight. The Convention includes groundbreaking provisions requiring assistance to victims and affected communities. Signed in Oslo in December 2008, the Convention entered into force as binding international law on August 1, 2010 and is the most significant international disarmament treaty since the 1997 Mine Ban Treaty banning antipersonnel landmines.
EXPORT OF CLUSTER BOMBS TO SAUDI ARABIA BY U.S. AT ODDS WITH INTERNATIONAL TREATY
The announcement this week that the U.S. has agreed to supply cluster munitions to Saudi Arabia is at odds with the international treaty banning these weapons, said the Cluster Munition Coalition (CMC) today. Neither the United States nor Saudi Arabia have signed the Convention on Cluster Munitions, which prohibits the production, transfer, use, and stockpiling of cluster munitions. “We are disappointed with the US decision to export cluster bombs to Saudi Arabia as both countries acknowledge the negative humanitarian impact of these weapons on civilians,” said Sarah Blakemore, director of the Cluster Munition Coalition (CMC). “Cluster munitions have been banned by more than half the world’s nations so any transfer goes against the international rejection of these weapons.” WVCBL is gravely concerned about this decision especially in light of U.S. condemnation of use of cluster munitions by Syria. On August 20th, the U.S. Department of Defense announced that a US $641 million contract has been awarded to Textron Defense Systems to supply 1,300 CBU-105D/B cluster bomb to Saudi Arabia as part of a deal that was first notified to Congress in December 2010. The CBU-105D/B cluster bomb, and other variants of this type of bomb produced to date, are known as a “sensor fuzed weapon” and are prohibited under the 2008 Convention on Cluster Munitions, which comprehensively prohibits cluster munitions and requires their clearance and assistance to victims. While the transfer deal is allowable under the US moratorium on the export of cluster munitions as the CBU-105D/B cluster bomb reportedly results in no more than 1% of its submunitions as unexploded ordnance, it is out of step with the growing international abhorrence to these types of weapons. Under the US export moratorium first enacted in 2007, cluster munitions must meet a less than 1% failure rate criteria and recipients must agree that the cluster munitions “will not be used where civilians are known to be present.” The US has previously announced sales of CBU-105D/B cluster bombs to India, South Korea, and Taiwan. Saudi Arabia has used cluster munitions in the past and stockpiles the weapons, but it is not believed to produce or export cluster munitions. According to the U.S. Department of Defense notification, “Saudi Arabia intends to use Sensor Fused Weapons to modernize its armed forces and enhance its capability to defeat a wide range of defensive threats, to include: strongpoints, bunkers, and dug-in facilities; armored and semi-armored vehicles; personnel; and certain maritime threats.”
“This transfer announcement comes at a time when Saudi Arabia and the US have joined international condemnations of Syria’s cluster bomb use” said Blakemore. “The US should acknowledge the treaty’s ban on cluster munition exports and reevaluate the criteria for its export moratorium so that no cluster munitions are transferred.” Saudi Arabia and the United States were among 107 nations that voted for a May 15th, 2013 resolution by the UN General Assembly that strongly condemned Syria’s use of cluster munitions. More than 100 countries are gathering for the fourth annual meeting of the 2008 Convention on Cluster Munitions in Lusaka, Zambia on September 9-13. The Cluster Munition Monitor, the civil society monitoring arm of the Cluster Munition Coalition, will launch its 2013 report at the UN in Geneva on September 4th.