13 November 2006

Methodist Church urges UK Government to join call for a ban on the use of cluster munitions

Following the war in South Lebanon hundreds of thousands of unexploded cluster bomblets litter the landscape and are maiming and killing civilians including children long after the end of the hostilities. The UN Under Secretary General for Humanitarian Affairs has described Israel's use of cluster munitions in South Lebanon as shocking and immoral. Last week Hilary Benn, Minister for International Development, in a leaked letter to Margaret Beckett, Foreign Secretary, and Des Browne, Defence Secretary, opposed the continued use of these weapons.

Steve Hucklesby states, 'In 2003, Methodist Conference called on the UK government to support an international ban on the use of such weapons. Cluster munitions were controversially used in a populated area during the US and UK assault on Basra in 2003. We wrote then to the Government to express our concern about the use of cluster bombs. In reply the Ministry of Defence estimated that our forces' use of cluster munitions in Iraq resulted in 3000 unexploded bomblets. While this may represent a small proportion of the unexploded ordinance in Iraq, a report in 2003 has nevertheless estimated 147 deaths from unexploded bomblets.'

At the UN Review Conference on Conventional Weapons currently meeting in Geneva governments are discussing a new set of rules to limit the use of cluster munitions. So far 18 states have supported the implementation of new rules, but the UK is not currently amongst them.

Mr Hucklesby said, 'The current safeguards under international law and the UN Convention on Conventional Weapons are inadequate to restrain the use of these weapons. We call on the UK government to join with others in Geneva to implement a freeze on the use of cluster munitions.'

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