INTERVIEW-ICRC chief says proposed cluster bomb pact is weak

Wed Nov 9, 2011 2:04pm GMT
 

By Stephanie Nebehay

GENEVA Nov 9 (Reuters) - A U.S.-backed proposal to regulate cluster bombs would water down an existing international ban on their use, leaving civilians in conflict zones exposed for years to come, the head of the ICRC has told Reuters.

"It's a step backwards, it is a much lower standard," Jakob Kellenberger, president of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), said in an interview in his Geneva office.

Cluster bombs, dropped by air or fired by artillery, scatter hundreds of bomblets across a wide area and can kill and maim civilians long after conflicts end.

The Oslo Convention of 2008 -- negotiated outside the United Nations framework by a group of countries keen to get quick action on the weapons -- banned their use, production and transfer and laid down timetables for stockpile destruction.

But the United States, China and Russia, all major producers, as well as Pakistan and India, shunned that agreement, saying it would impinge on their capacity to defend themselves against land attack.

Washington has endorsed a weaker U.N. draft pact -- in the form of a protocol to the 1980 "Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons" or CCW, that will be discussed from Nov. 14-25 in Geneva by envoys from 114 countries.

"When you look at this (draft) compared to the Oslo Convention, in a way it is going back on standards already set on the level of international humanitarian law," Kellenberger said.

The protocol would ban the use and transfer of cluster munitions produced before 1980 and those lacking any safety mechanism to make them self-destruct.   Continued...

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