Total ban on cluster bombs: Vatican appeal

An international convention on arms limitation should include a total ban on cluster bombs, Vatican representative Archbishop Silvano Tommasi has told a United Nations arms conference.

The world community does not need more proof to realise submunitions "should no longer exist in the arsenals of armies who are concerned with better respecting international human rights," said Archbishop Tomasi told the conference according to a Catholic News report.

The archbishop was addressing a meeting of the group of government experts from countries who are parties to the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons.

Also known as the Inhumane Weapons Convention, it prohibits or restricts the use of weaponry, such as anti-personnel mines, incendiary weapons and blinding lasers, that may cause excessive injury or have indiscriminate effects.

Cluster bombs and submunitions are not yet banned by any international treaty, and many governments still consider them legitimate weapons.

Typically, cluster bombs open in midair and scatter dozens or hundreds of submunitions or bomblets over a wide area. A percentage of duds do not explode and can remain a threat for many years. They pose a particular danger to children, as they are easily attracted to the bomblets' bright colorful casings, mistaking the volatile explosives for toys.

Archbishop Tomasi urged governments to "prohibit the production, possession, trade and use of submunitions, to destroy stockpiles," to cooperate in removing unexploded munitions from affected areas, and to help people and communities affected by cluster bombs.

The "urgency and seriousness" of the devastating effects of submunitions should encourage the parties to ban them outright, he said in his text.

He said an adequate response to this "grave humanitarian problem" is needed, adding that measures that do not better protect civilians will affect the convention's credibility.

"Credibility comes from treating problems in a serious, effective and productive way," he said. He urged the parties to formulate and endorse "effective and concrete action" against the use of cluster bombs and submunitions.

Meanwhile, Sr Christine Burke, Provincial Leader of the Loreto Sisters, has urged the Federal Minister for Defence, Dr Brendan Nelson, to join the global efforts in banning cluster bombs.

In a recent letter to the Australian Defence Minister, Sr Christine expresses her concern at the decision by the Senate Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade to support the Australian Defence Force in acquiring and using cluster bombs.

"It is quite immoral to use weapons that are known to cause death and injury to large numbers of civilians, both during and after a conflict," she said.

Weapons pact should include cluster-bomb ban, says Vatican official (Catholic Online, 21/6/07)
Loreto Provincial urges global ban on cluster bombs (Loreto 22/6/07)

LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
Cluster bombs (ITVS)
Cluster bombs (Wikipedia)
Loreto Sisters of Australia

Religious groups tell UN that war violates rights of Iraqi children (CathNews, 17/4/03)
Nun calls for ban on cluster bombs (CathNews, 14/11/01)

Pope says Iraqi Christians experience 'authentic martyrdom' (Catholic News, 21/6/07)
Pope Worried Over Christian Exodus From Iraq (Javno, 21/6/07)
Pope expresses solidarity with Iraq's Christians (France 24, 21/6/07)
Iraq war murders hit Bossley Park (Fairfield Champion, 13/6/07)

22 Jun 2007