18 September 2007

Churches call for full ban on cluster bombs

On the tenth anniversary of the adoption of the Mine Ban Treaty the Methodist Church, the United Reformed Church and the Baptist Union of Great Britain call on the UK Government to end their use of cluster bombs by UK forces. The churches are also asking the Foreign Secretary David Miliband to actively support an international treaty to ban such weapons.

Cluster bombs are air or ground launched devices that scatter smaller bombs (or submunitions) over a large area. The submunitions that fail to explode pose a unique threat to civilians. These unexploded bombs effectively create minefields and maim and kill children or adults who disturb them later on. In the two months after the conflict between Israel and Hezbollah, three or four civilians were killed, on average, every day by unexploded cluster bombs. On average, a child died each day as a result of these weapons.

Moderator of the General Assembly of the United Reformed Church, the Revd Dr Stephen Orchard, says; "Cluster bombs kill and maim civilians indiscriminately and go on killing long after the fighting has stopped. The coming year provides us with a unique opportunity to strengthen international humanitarian law and to provide improved protection for civilians during and after conflict."

Earlier this year, the Government committed to the Oslo Process - a new international process to agree a treaty on cluster bombs - and has withdrawn two types of cluster bombs from its stockpiles.

But the Revd David Deeks, General Secretary of the Methodist Church, says there is still much more to be done; "Important progress has been made, but that's no reason to stop now. The UK still retains other types of cluster bomb, which are just as inhumane and leave behind a deadly legacy. It's time for the Government to act on the promises made earlier this year and show that it means business."

The Churches have also published campaign information online at www.jointpublicissues.org.uk/clustermunitions with advice on how people can take action, from emailing the Foreign Secretary or writing to their MP to getting others to take action.

Jonathan Edwards, General Secretary of the Baptist Union of Great Britain, says; "This resource is a great starting point for anyone interested in getting these terrible weapons banned for good. Everyone can do something to make a difference, whether they have just two minutes of time to spare, or twenty minutes."

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