Anti-cluster bomb action should start in Syria

While the extension and expansion of Canada’s mission against ISIL was debated in Parliament, Canada finally ratified a treaty that could save lives in Syria for years to come.  On March 16, Canada ratified the Convention on Cluster Munitions more than six years after signing the treaty.  Cluster munitions are dropped from aircraft or fired from the ground or sea, opening up in mid-air to release tens or hundreds of submunitions, which can saturate an area up to the size of several football fields. The Convention on Cluster Munitions prohibits the use, production, transfer and stockpiling of these inhumane weapons due to the unacceptable harm they cause to civilians. 

The Syrian government continues to use cluster munitions against its own people with catastrophic results – over 1,000 casualties were reported in 2013 and the casualties continued throughout 2014 and into this year.  While Canada’s ratification of the Convention on Cluster Munitions will not put an immediate end to the Syrian government’s use of this horrific weapon; Canada now has obligations to help lessen the suffering of Syrians injured by cluster munitions and to contribute to the prevention of future casualties.

Under Article 21 of the Convention on Cluster Munitions, Canada has an obligation to discourage our allies in efforts against ISIL to not use cluster munitions. Article 21 is known as the universalization clause because it requires states parties like Canada to encourage allies to join the treaty and to discourage any use of cluster munitions by anyone.  The Canadian government should do everything it can to ensure that none of the states in the anti-ISIL coalition use cluster munitions to prevent further casualties amongst the civilian population in Syria or Iraq.

Canada also has obligations under the treaty to provide assistance to the victims of cluster munitions and to support risk education and the clearance of unexploded submunitions.  The Government of Canada can immediately begin to support Syrians who have been injured by these horrific weapons.  Support to trauma and medical services in Syria, to medical and rehabilitation services for refugees in neighbouring countries and to disability programs in the region will have an immediate impact on the lives of cluster munition survivors, their families and their communities.  All of these actions will help Canada meet the victim assistance obligations under the Convention on Cluster Munitions and will improve the lives of Syrians.

The government can also support risk education operations in displaced communities to help prevent casualties when people return home to areas now contaminated by unexploded submunitions.  The ongoing conflict means that clearance of unexploded submunitions cannot yet start but it is possible to educate people about the risks and to begin to gather information about dangerous areas to allow for a quick response as soon as it is safe to enter the country.  Canada can begin to plan for such life-saving actions by creating a rapid response fund and by supporting organizations that are doing surveys on the situation in Syria in preparation for clearance operations.  Over 98% of cluster munition casualties in Syria have been civilians and countless more civilians will be at risk when they return home to areas contaminated by cluster munition remnants.  Canada can act now to prevent future casualties through education and preparation for rapid response clearance.

Parliament will continue to discuss the mission in Iraq and Syria as it unfolds and pundits will analyze and criticise that we are risking too much or not doing enough.  Regardless of the extension and expansion of the military mission against ISIL, Canada has the opportunity to create meaningful change in the lives of the people who suffer the painful consequences of the Syrian government’s use of cluster munitions by fulfilling our obligations under the Convention on Cluster Munitions.  It is time for Canada to be a leader on ending the suffering caused by cluster munitions and let us start by helping the people of Syria.

By Erin Hunt, Programme Coordinator, Mines Action Canada.  Originally published in Embassy News on 8 April 2015

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New music video highlights landmine impact on children

The Smashing Pumpkins music video for "Drum+Fife" is visually stunning and powerful.  It brings light to the fact that wars don't end just because the guns fall silent and a peace agreement is signed.  

Landmines, cluster munitions and other explosive remnants of war continue to kill and maim years or decades after conflict while those who fought often return home with visible and invisible injuries only to be forgotten.

 Since the video focuses on children passing through a mine field, let's look at the most recent statistics about landmine casualties.  The Landmine Monitor 2014 has the most up to date information about the global landmine situation.

  • In 2013, the Monitor reported 3,308 mine/ERW casualties of which 1,065 people were killed and another 2,218 people were injured.  
  • On average nine people are killed or injured by a landmine or other explosive remnants of war every day.
  • Landmine casualties were reported in 55 states and other areas in 2013.
  • Afghanistan reported the most casualties in 2013 (with 1,050 people killed or injured) and Colombia had the second highest number of casualties (368 people killed or injured)
  • There were 1,112 child casualties in 2013 or 46% of all casualties.
  • The majority of child casualties were from three countries - Afghanistan, Colombia and Syria.
  • Globally women made up 12% of all landmine casualties.
  • 79% of casualties in 2013 were civilians while security forces made up 18% and 3% were deminers.

While these figures are distressing they demonstrate a marked improvement compared to the situation before the Ottawa Treaty banning landmines.  The Ottawa Treaty has led to an incredible decrease in the number of landmine casualties globally since it became international law in 1999 but there is still a long way to go. We need all states to join the Ottawa Treaty and commit to a mine free world. Learn more by visiting our website or www.the-monitor.org and support our work by donating online.

Erin Hunt, Programme Coordinator, Mines Action Canada.

 

 

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Mines Action Canada Welcomes Canada’s Ratification of Cluster Bomb Ban Despite Lingering Concerns about Legislation

(Ottawa – 17 March 2015) Canada has finally ratified the Convention on Cluster Munitions and totally banned these inhumane weapons.  After signing the Convention on Cluster Munitions in December 2008, Canada ratified the Convention today and will be fully bound by the provisions of the Convention on September 1, 2015.  As a full state party, Canada will join 89 other states in a total ban on cluster munitions due to the unacceptable humanitarian harm they cause.  The Convention bans the use, production, transfer and stockpiling of cluster munitions as well as assistance with any of those acts.

Mines Action Canada remains concerned about the national legislation used to implement the Convention on Cluster Munitions.  The two and a half year long process to pass this legislation is indicative of the importance of the Convention and the widespread concern about loopholes in the legislation known as Bill C-6.  During the legislative process, Bill C-6 received intense national and international attention including commentary from the International Committee of the Red Cross, from diplomats, from international organizations, from humanitarian experts and from civil society organizations.  Mines Action Canada was pleased to see the House of Commons make an amendment to the legislation in 2013. 

“Although Bill C-6 contained numerous loopholes when it was passed; it is clear that Canadians will not use cluster munitions. The debate about the legislation has ensured that the small number of Canadian allies who remain outside the Convention will not likely be putting Canadian personnel in the difficult position of assisting with the use of this banned and internationally condemned weapon,” said Paul Hannon, Executive Director. “Senator Fortin-Duplessis’ statement that ‘Canadian commanders will never have the right to order the use of cluster munitions’ even during joint military operations is a positive step and we look forward to clear directives from the Chief of Defense Staff.”

The thorough review of the legislation included clarification from the government that Bill C-6 and Canada’s ratification of the Convention on Cluster Munitions bans the investment in cluster munition production.  Department of Justice officials stated that Canadian investment in cluster munition producers is in fact considered aiding in their production and is illegal - “[i]f there's investment in Canada in a company offshore that amounts to aiding and abetting, then it will be subject to the Canadian criminal law under the bill.” 

Canada has been complying with some of obligations under the Convention on Cluster Munitions prior to ratification.  In June 2014, all of Canada’s remaining cluster munition stockpiles were destroyed well in advance of the 8 years after ratification deadline contained in the Convention.  Canada has also been submitting voluntary reports to the States Parties annually. 

As a full State Party to the Convention on Cluster Munitions, the Government of Canada is obligated to help clear contaminated land and assist the victims of this horrific weapon.   Mines Action Canada is calling on the government to resume its position of a top five donor to mine action by contributing at least $1 per Canadian per year.  Canadian funding can save lives and ensure that Canadian tourists, businesspeople and aid workers can walk without fear everywhere. 

Amidst reports of cluster munition use in Syria, Ukraine and Libya, Canada’s ratification strengthens the stigma against these inhuman weapons.  Mr. Hannon further said “We expect Canada to discourage our allies from using cluster munitions and to encourage all countries to join the treaty.”

<ENDS>

For more information or to schedule an interview, contact:

Erin Hunt, Program Coordinator, Mines Action Canada, mob.: 613 302-3088 email: erin@minesactioncanada.org  

Notes to Editors

About cluster munitions:

A cluster munition (or cluster bomb) is a weapon containing multiple - often hundreds - of small explosive submunitions or bomblets. Cluster munitions are dropped from the air or fired from the ground and designed to break open in mid-air, releasing the submunitions over an area that can be the size of several football fields. They cannot discriminate between civilians and soldiers. Many of the submunitions fail to explode on impact and remain a threat to lives and livelihoods for decades after a conflict.

116 countries have joined the Convention on Cluster Munitions (89 full States Parties - in bold):

Afghanistan, Albania, Andorra, Angola, Antigua and Barbuda, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Belize, Benin, Bolivia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Botswana, Bulgaria, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Canada, Cape Verde, Central African Republic, Cameroon, Chad, Chile, Colombia, Comoros, DR Congo, Republic of Congo, Cook Islands, Costa Rica, Côte D’Ivoire, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Djibouti, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Fiji, France, Gambia, Germany, Ghana, Grenada, Guatemala, Guinea, Guinea Bissau, Guyana, Haiti, The Holy See, Honduras, Hungary, Iceland, Indonesia, Iraq, Ireland, Italy, Jamaica, Japan, Kenya, Lao PDR, Lebanon, Lesotho, Liberia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Macedonia FYR, Madagascar , Malawi, Mali, Malta, Mauritania, Mexico, Republic of Moldova, Monaco, Montenegro, Mozambique, Namibia, Nauru, Netherlands, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Niger, Nigeria, Norway, Palau, Palestine, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Philippines, Portugal, Rwanda, Samoa, San Marino, Sao Tomé and Principe, St. Vincent and Grenadines, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Senegal, Seychelles, Sierra Leone, Slovenia, Somalia, South Africa, Spain, Swaziland, Sweden, Switzerland, Tanzania, Togo, Trinidad and Tobago, Tunisia, Uganda, United Kingdom, Uruguay, and Zambia. See http://stopclustermunitions.org/en-gb/the-treaty/treaty-status.aspx for details.

About Mines Action Canada (MAC)
Formed in 1994 Mines Action Canada (MAC) is a coalition of Canadian non-governmental organizations concerned with the human and socio-economic impacts of landmines, cluster munitions and other weapons causing similar humanitarian impacts. It is the Canadian partner of the International Campaign to Ban Landmines (ICBL), the 1997 co-recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize and is a founding member of the Cluster Munition Coalition. www.minesactioncanada.org

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Campaigners from around the world ask Canada to #fixthebill

As Bill C-6 implementing the global ban on cluster munitions is being studied by the Foreign Affairs Standing Committee, campaigners from around the world are seriously concerned because the legislation allows Canadians to help use and request that other countries use a banned weapon.  They have a message for Canada - #fixthebill!

A video message from Lynn in the USA:

Nora from the USA:

Leila from London:

Lucy from the UK and Umedjon from Tajikistan:

A video message from Thoummy in Laos:

Moaffak from Iraq:

Mutebar from Turkey:

Nicola from Geneva:

http://flic.kr/p/ib9cA7

Serena from Taiwan:

Shushira from Thailand and Seevue from Laos:

Sylvie from France:

http://flic.kr/p/ib8KuR

Umedjon from Tajikistan:

Vidya from Sri Lanka:

Boibat from Western Sahara:

Atle from Norway:

Ayman from Egypt:

Eva from Germany:

Lucy from London and Geoffrey from South Sudan:

Jeff from the USA:

Ken from the USA:

A video message from Richard in the UK:

Ban Advocates and cluster bomb survivors in Vietnam:

Ana-Maria from Peru:

Tamar from the United States:

Gus in Vietnam:

A video message from Susan from the United States:

Kasia, Tamar and Firoz in Geneva:

Olivia from Canada:

The Landmine Survivors Initiative in Bosnia:

Merel, Lucy and Amy in London:

Chuck, a Vietnam vet who clears cluster bombs in Vietnam:

Morgan, Arthur, Amelie and Jared in Geneva:

Firoz from Afghanistan has a video message for Canada:

Mr. Thi and friends in Vietnam: 

 

 

 

 

 

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