Tuesday May 8, 2007
Under embargo - 12:01AM May 8 2007
Australian Red Cross is urging the Federal Government to take a leadership role in banning the use of inaccurate and unreliable cluster munitions.
On the occasion of World Red Cross Day, the CEO of Australian Red Cross, Robert Tickner said to support a ban on the use of these weapons would send a clear message to the rest of the world and be a significant step towards ridding it of a weapon that goes on destroying lives long after the fighting forces have packed up and gone home.
Cluster munitions are weapons (e.g. bombs, artillery shells and rockets) that can contain hundreds of smaller sub-munitions. Although the sub-munitions are generally designed to explode on impact, they often fail to do so, leaving vast amounts of lethal explosives on the ground.
In 2006, the International Committee of Red Cross called on States to end the use of inaccurate and unreliable cluster munitions and to prohibit the use of cluster munitions in populated areas.
'A cluster munition can release its deadly load over an area of up to several thousand square metres,' said Robert Tickner.
'Un-exploded submunitions have had a severe, long-term impact on civilians in most of the conflicts in which they have been used, including Afghanistan, Iraq, Kosovo, Laos and Lebanon.'
When used in or near inhabited areas, cluster munitions present clear physical dangers to the civilian population, but they can also create long term social and economic effects for a country attempting to rebuild.
'This issue is of particular importance to the Red Cross Movement given our role in providing humanitarian assistance in times of conflict -- as unexploded ordnance, particularly submunitions, has a significant and dreadful impact on the civilian population and on our ability to provide aid and essential services,' he said.
Mr Tickner saw the effects of unexploded cluster munitions first hand on a recent trip to Lebanon. Submunitions were found in houses, back yards, in trees, in orchards and many other places. In one street near a hospital 800 submunitions were found.
'The time has come for strong international action to end the predictable pattern of human tragedy associated with cluster munitions.'
May 8 is World Red Cross Day. To find out more about the Red Cross Red Crescent movement in Australia and the world, visit www.redcross.org.au.