Published on Tuesday, March 26, 2002 by OneWorld.net New Effort to Force Armies to Clean up Unexploded Bombs and Rockets by Daniel Nelson The opening shots were fired Monday in a battle to force armies to clean up cluster bombs, rockets, mortars, and other ordnance that they have dropped on their enemies but which have not exploded.
A report calling for new efforts to clear up the lethal litter of unexploded ordnance (UXO)--which kills as many people as landmines but which does not fall under any legal obligation on post-conflict clearance--was released on the third anniversary of the start of NATO bombing in the troubled Serbian province of Kosovo. "UXO are a forgotten but lethal legacy of every war," said Richard Lloyd, director of Landmine Action, publishers of the report. "Thousands of people around the world must live with the constant threat as they go about their daily lives." The report, financed by Britain's Co-operative Bank, says that three times as many Cambodian children are victims of UXO than of landmines. In Kosovo, about 60 percent of victims in the two years to May 2001 were killed by UXO, compared with 37 percent by landmines. Children are particularly at risk, says the report, 'Explosive Remnants of War - The Impact of Unexploded Ordnance on Post Conflict Communities,' as they are more likely to pick up UXO without knowing what they are. In the year after the end of the conflict in Kosovo, almost two-thirds of the dead or maimed were children. The report comes amid reports that thousands of refugees in a camp in western Eritrea are living among unexploded cluster bombs, left behind after the war with Ethiopia. The bombs, produced by British arms manufacturer Hunting Engineering group, now Insys, based in the outskirts of London, have been found lying around the Korokon refugee camp by Oxfam and Landmine Action, according to an article published in the daily Guardian newspaper. An Insys spokesman was quoted yesterday as saying that none of the bombs were sold directly to the Ethiopian government and all the sales were approved by the Ministry of Defense, which was originally directly responsible for the sales. Lloyd said Monday that the Landmine Action campaign was pressing for a new international humanitarian law to make users of explosive munitions responsible for clearing or paying for the clearance of UXO, a recommendation that would be discussed later this year by 88 countries at meetings of the United Nations Conventional Weapons Convention. "It is too early to tell what the position of some of the key governments will be," said Lloyd, noting that the Chinese government had said it agreed with the principle that users of munitions should be responsible for dealing with clearance. "The stage is set," said Lloyd, "and it is crucial that civil society gets involved, to ensure that it's not just a discussion between military officials. We want civil society to apply pressure on governments worldwide." Campaigners also advocate that technical information about UXO should be given to the UN and clearance organizations immediately after use, and that information and warnings about weapons with a likely long-term impact should be provided to civilians during and after conflicts. In addition, said Simon Williams, director of corporate affairs at The Cooperative Bank, "we are calling for a freeze on the use of cluster bombs" because they indiscriminately harmed innocent civilians and produced proportionately more UXO due to their high failure rates when dropped. Copyright © 2002 OneWorld.net.