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Amnesty welcomes Mark Durkan's Westminster move on cluster bombs

As representatives from over 100 governments start to arive in Dublin for next week's major diplomatic conference, where world leaders will finalise the text of an international treaty to ban the use of cluster bombs, Amnesty International welcomes SDLP Leader Mark Durkan’s parliamentary move calling on the UK government to ban the weapons. Durkan has proposed an early day motion at Westminster which has already won cross-party backing.

Cluster munitions release and scatter smaller bomblets indiscriminately over a wide area. Many of the bomblets do not explode on impact, remaining lethal to the civilian population. These weapons can cause injury and death in communities for months and even years after wars are over. Children's rights are often the main victims of these weapons as they have been injured or killed while picking up unexploded bomblets thinking the devices were toys.

Currently more than 100 governments support the international cluster munitions treaty, the final text of which will be negotiated in Dublin from Monday..

The UK - the world's third largest user of cluster bombs in the last decade - is seeking to gain exemptions to the treaty for the types of cluster munitions that it stockpiles.

In addition it is lobbying for changes to the treaty which would give tacit approval for the US to continue using them and allow them to be stored in US air force bases on UK soil.

Patrick Corrigan, Northern Ireland Programme Director said:

"We are delighted that Mark Durkan has seized the intiative and tabled this Early Day Motion and that it is already attracting support across the political spectrum. Cluster bombs clearly cause unacceptable harm to civilians and its now time to ban these horrendous weapons.

"The legacy of these weapons lasts for decades, rendering fertile land unusable and ensuring that refugees who have often survived the war return home only to be killed in the peace."

Notes to editors:

A cluster bomb, is a weapon containing multiple explosive bomblets (also known as sub munitions). These weapons are dropped from aircraft or fired from the ground and designed to break open in midair, releasing the sub munitions and saturating an area that can be the size of several football fields.

They kill and injure civilians both during attacks due to the large area affect of the weapon, and in the post conflict period (as many fail to explode on impact.) Unexploded sub munitions continue to hamper post conflict reconstruction and development long after the fighting has ended. These weapons kill and injure people trying to rebuild their lives after conflict. They stop people from being able to use their land and access schools and hospitals. They can remain a threat for decades.

Cluster bombs have killed and injured thousands of civilians during the last 40 years and continue to do so today. More recently, cluster bombs were used extensively in the Gulf War, Chechnya, the former Yugoslavia, Afghanistan, Iraq and in Lebanon in 2006. The UN estimates that Israel used up to 4 million sub munitions in southern Lebanon. In the first 6 months following the ceasefire in 2006, about 200 civilians were killed or injured in Lebanon by unexploded cluster bombs. One year later the death-toll is still rising. One of the cluster bombs widely used, the M85, is exactly the same as the type the UK wishes to define as safe.

The diplomatic conference in Dublin will take place at Croke Park and lasts from 19 to 30 May. Representatives from organisations within the Cluster Munition Coalition will be attending the conference. These include Amnesty International.

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