WINTER 2000/01
Peace Matters index




cluster bombs


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- goddesses of peace
- cluster bombs
- kid's tv preventing violence
- reactionary forces
- peacemaking in Cyprus
- remembering the holocaust
- conflict transformation

88 countries are affected by landmines
There appears to be a drop in the production of landmines from, 54 known corporate producers to 16

New mine victims were reported in 71 countries since March 1999. 39 of these countries were at peace

Organised humanitarian mine action programmes are taking place in 41 countries; seven of the largest humanitarian mine/uxo clearance programmes cleared 168 square kilometres of land in 1999

There are still more that 250 million anti-personnel mines held by 105 nations. The biggest stockpiles are China (110 million, Russia (60-70 million), Belarus (10-15 million), United States (11 million), Ukraine (10 million), Pakistan (6 million), India (4-5 million)

More than 22 million stockpiled anti personnel mines have been destroyed by 50 nations.


New research published by Landmine Action has detailed the human cost of cluster bombs widely and ineffectively used in Kosova. Alarmingly these weapons are proliferating fast

Live and dangerous British-made cluster bombs contain I47 smaller bomblets or sub-munitions, which are scattered across a wide area when the bomb is released. Many bomblets often fail to explode and remain live and dangerous until they are cleared.

The unexploded bomblets effectively turn into landmines, ready to detonate on contact, causing death and injury to civilians, even many years after the war has ended. Many are brightly coloured and the size of a drinks can, and are therefore particularly attractive to children.

After the fighting has finished, the threat from cluster bombs remains. The unexploded bomblets prevent people from returning to their homes and working on their land, holding back reconstruction and economic recovery.

Despite this, those responsible for deploying cluster bombs have been slow to clear the live bombs. Over 25 years after the Vietnam War, there were still 500,000 tonnes of unexploded bombs in neighbouring Laos. And more recently, an estimated thirty thousand tons of unexploded ordnance (uxo), much of it unexploded cluster bomblets, were scattered across Kuwait at the end of the Gulf War.

Cluster bombs are prone to failure due to defects in manufacture, errors in storage, moving and loading - but a critical factor is the environment into which they are dropped. The bomblets are designed to explode on impact but a soft surface such as mud, sand or snow, or the presence of trees or overgrowth can lead to substantial failures.

Statistics on cluster bombs from Kosovo, the Gulf War, US military trials, the Vietnam War and the UK government's own figures from the Falklands war, indicate that 9 - 30 % of the bomblets fail to explode on impact.

During the bombing of Kosovo, NATO aircraft dropped 1,392 cluster bomb dispensers containing 289,536 bomblets. Government ministers insisted that only five per cent of these would fail to explode, based on information provided by manufacturers. But NATO now admit that between eight and 12 per cent failed, leaving as many as 34,744 live bomblets on the ground. Because local people believe the bomblets are harmless, they treat them with less caution than landmines. Unexploded bomblets are estimated to have killed or injured more than 200 people in Kosovo since the bombing ended.

Despite compelling evidence from an official US government assessment of the Gulf War that unguided bombs dropped from medium to high altitudes were likely to miss the target and cause civilian casualties, this is exactly what was done in Kosovo last year.

More than half of all the bombs used by the RAF in Kosovo were unguided cluster bombs. According to the Ministry of Defence, 31 per cent of cluster bombs dropped on Kosovo missed the target. That amounts to 25,000 bomblets. During the Kosovo conflict, NATO cluster bombs are estimated to have killed between 90 and 150 civilians.

Despite this, reliance on cluster munitions seems set to grow, particularly with the proliferation of missile or artillery delivered systems, which can saturate wide areas with huge numbers of bomblets in minutes. Some cluster weapons scatter antipersonnel mines from distances of up to 300 kilometres. n

appropriate technology
Rae McGrath writes: There is concern about the emphasis in this country and in Europe generally on inappropriate demining technology research. This is unlikely to result in the removal of landmines from the fields of subsistence farmers in developing countries, but uses up funds which could otherwise be better employed. All the involved specialist organisations agree that the development of a local and sustainable engineering response is what gets mines out of the ground and saves lives most effectively. What is urgently needed is international support for action which we know from experience works.

It is a shameful tragedy that many mine victims, including children, undergo surgery without anaesthetic because their family cannot afford to pay for medicines. Many others die before they reach medical aid simply because the first people on the scene lack basic first aid skills. These are all wrongs we can put right at a comparatively low cost, through funding and implementing well designed landmine action programmes. It is, after all, ridiculous to ban landmines but allow them to continue devastating the poorest communities in the poorest countries.

A few years ago there were just two small British charities, Halo Trust and the Mines Advisory Group, tackling the problem worldwide. But today there are many thousands of de-miners who go to work every day in minefields.

Despite the image often portrayed by the media, very few de-miners are western experts. In fact in most countries a visitor would be much more likely to meet local women or amputee de-mining specialists solving their own problems with international support and training.

The world has started the process of clearing up this deadly garbage of war but we have only taken the first steps. This country, through the work of its aid agencies and as an international donor, has played a major role. But the scale of response must match the scale of the problem. On that basis, we simply are not yet doing enough. n


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