Magazine article New Internationalist

Time Bombs: The Legacy of Cluster Bombs Is as Lethal as Landmines

Magazine article New Internationalist

Time Bombs: The Legacy of Cluster Bombs Is as Lethal as Landmines

Article excerpt

FOURTEEN-YEAR-OLD Teng was working in the fields when his hoe hit what he thought was a stone. It exploded on impact, leaving Teng blinded in both eyes and with most of his left hand blown away.

Teng was not the victim of one of the millions of cluster bomblets dropped in Iraq, Afghanistan or Kosovo over the last five years. He was the victim of one of the 350 million bomblets dropped in Laos, Vietnam and Cambodia by the US Air Force during the Vietnam War more than 30 years ago.

Despite the fact that cluster bombs leave a legacy as lethal as landmines, they are not covered by international law and there are no specific controls on their use.

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The problems with cluster bombs or munitions are two-fold. First, they are an inaccurate weapon scattering up to 200 bomblets or submunitions over an area the size of a football field, often causing significant civilian casualties.

As an indiscriminate weapon with a heavy impact on civilians, under the Geneva Convention cluster bombs should never be used in built-up civilian areas. Yet Coalition use of cluster munitions in Iraq in March and April 2003 has been confirmed in many populated areas including Baghdad, Basra, Hillah, Kirkuk, Mosul and Nasiriyah. Human Rights Watch estimates that more than 1,000 civilians were killed or wounded by cluster bombs dropped by US and British forces during the conflict - that is more civilian casualties than from any other Coalition-related factor.

Secondly there is a high failure rate amongst the bomblets. …

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