Iraq: Cluster bombing must stop to reduce civilian casualties

The organisation also fears that landmines may have been used in the region.

The organisation is demanding that the US, UK and Iraqi authorities immediately stop using indiscriminate and other weapons banned by international law. Both US and UK officials have refused to rule out the use cluster of bombs.

Cluster bombs release hundreds of lethal bomblets over a large area. At least five per cent of these 'dud' bomblets do not explode upon impact, effectively becoming landmines that can kill and maim civilians who come into contact with them.

Amnesty International UK Director Kate Allen, said:

'Unexploded cluster bomblets will kill and maim Iraqi civilians long after the war is over. There must be an immediate moratorium on the use of these horrific weapons.

'International law prohibits the use of indiscriminate weapons, precisely because they kill civilians. Using cluster bombs and landmines is likely to break this law.'

Iraqi troops have reportedly laid anti-personnel mines and landmine booby-traps in southern Iraq. Other reports state that Iraqi forces have laid mines around Kirkuk in the north and elsewhere in the country.

The US Pentagon has said that 'it retains the right to use landmines.' The International Campaign to Ban Landmines has stated that the US has already deployed about 90,000 landmines to the region for possible use in Iraq. The US has been stockpiling thousands of anti-personnel mines (banned under UK law) off the coast of the British territory of Diego Garcia for use in Iraq. If anti-personnel mines had entered the territory of Diego Garcia, this would appear to breach the UK Land Mines Act.

Kate Allen said: 'The US and Iraq must immediately halt any use of anti-personnel landmines.' Background

The Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Anti-Personnel Mines and on their Destruction (Ottawa Treaty), which entered into force on 1 March 1999, forbids the development, production, acquisition, stockpiling, retention and transfer of anti-personnel weapons.

The Ottawa treaty has been ratified by 131 states, including the UK and Australia, and signed by 146. Neither the USA nor Iraq is a party to the treaty.

To see an interview with Amnesty International's expert on arms and human rights, please visit: http://emedia.amnesty.org/mines.ram

A media briefing on indiscriminate weapons is available at: http://web.amnesty.org/ai.nsf/recent/act790062003 /p>

More about the crisis in Iraq, including actions you can take, is available online... /p>

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