Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Cluster Bombs - Why the World Needs the Ban

News that Sri Lanka's last functioning hospital in the country's northern war zone has been hit by cluster bombs is a grim reminder of why the world needs to implement the treaty signed in Dublin last year banning the production, transfer, stockpiling and use of cluster munitions.

Reports of the bombing of the hospital in the area of Puthukkudiyiruppu were communicated by U.N. spokesman Gordon Weiss who said that despite the earlier evacuation of the hospital, 15 U.N. staff members and 81 members of their families were apparently trapped in the immediate area, which is one of the last regions of Sri Lanka to remain under control of the Tamil Tigers movement. Tamil fighters have been fighting for an independent homeland in the north of Sri Lanka for over 25 years. Casualty figures for this latest attack are currently unknown.

Disputed video footage from an alleged earlier cluster bomb attack in Sri Lanka appears to show fragments of munitions with cyrillic markings, indicating a possible Russian source to the cluster bombs allegedly owned by the Sri Lankan military.

The 2008 Dublin agreement was signed by 111 countries despite the absence at the conference of the major producers of cluster bombs - the United States, China, Russia, Israel, India and Pakistan.

Cluster bombs scatter smaller munitions across a wide area on impact, causing widespread destruction. Such weapons also cause a long-term danger to civilians, especially children, who may pick up unexploded bomblets by mistake.

The government of Sri Lanka publicaly denies using cluster munitions in its long campaign against the Tamil seperatist movement. Sri Lanka is not a signatory to the 2008 Convention on Cluster Munitions.

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