Over 100 children have been killed or maimed by cluster munitions in Lebanon since 2006, a senior army officer told IRIN at a recent international meeting on cluster bombs in Beirut.
Since 2006, cluster munitions have killed or injured 408 Lebanese civilians, 115 of whom were children, Maj Pierre Bou Maroun, chief of the Lebanese Armed Forces Regional Mine Action Centre (RMAC) in Nabatiyeh, told IRIN on the sidelines of the second meeting of states parties to the Convention on Cluster Munitions which ended on 16 September.
RMAC coordinates all demining operations in the country.
Speaking at the meeting, Lebanese President Michel Sleiman called cluster munitions a “despicable weapon” designed to “sustain programmed killing and handicapping” long into the future. He said the Lebanese state was “fully committed” to the Convention, “particularly when it comes to assisting victims of cluster munitions and ridding its territory” of the weapons.
The meeting brought together representatives from over 115 governments, the UN, civil society organizations and cluster munitions survivors to discuss how to advance the Convention’s key obligations.
“Governments need to demonstrate that they are acting with the urgency and comprehensiveness that they have promised in eliminating cluster munitions and addressing the effects these inhumane weapons have on civilians all over the world,” said Steve Goose, chair of the Cluster Munitions Coalition (CMC) and director of the Arms Division at Human Rights Watch.
Lebanon and Tunisia are the only Arab states to have ratified the Convention. Iraq has signed but not yet ratified.
According to the CMC, Iraq and Lebanon are the worst-affected countries in the Middle East/North Africa region, but Libya is the most recently contaminated country, following use of cluster munitions by forces loyal to Muammar Gaddafi earlier this year.
The Beirut meeting heard that as a result of the Convention, around 50 percent of the world’s cluster munitions have been destroyed. In Lebanon, the CMC said, around 66 percent of contaminated land has been cleared and returned to residents.
Goose said that while the success was impressive, some 80 countries had still not signed the Convention, including some of the world’s biggest manufacturers, users or stockpilers of cluster munitions, such as Israel, the US, China, Russia, Pakistan and India.
"The trends identified over the last 10 months are encouraging: they show that nearly 65 million submunitions have already been destroyed as a direct result of the Convention, and clearance is progressing," said Christine Beerli, vice-president of the International Committee of the Red Cross.
"Until recently, cluster munitions were generally accepted as an essential weapon and the unacceptable harm they cause was viewed as unavoidable,” she added, but “Lebanon’s experience changed everything”.
In the last 72 hours of its 34-day war with Lebanon in 2006, at a time when the UN Security Council had already adopted Resolution 1701 calling for an immediate cessation of hostilities, Israel dropped four million cluster bomblets over South Lebanon. Around 40 percent failed to explode upon impact, according to the UN, becoming de facto landmines that could continue to threaten civilians for several decades unless cleared.
According to a 2008 Human Rights Watch report, Israel’s use of the weapons was the most extensive anywhere in the world since the 1991 Gulf War. This catalyzed international efforts to ban the weapon.
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