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Australian Churches call for ban on cluster munitions

The National Council of Churches in Australia (NCCA) has condemned the use of cluster munitions and called for the development of a treaty to ban cluster munitions;

In a letter to the Minister for Defence Joel Fitzgibbon and the Minister for Foreign Affairs Stephen Smith, NCCA General Secretary Revd John Henderson said cluster bombs have killed and wounded innocent people for more than 40 years.

“These weapons cause death and injury to civilians during attacks and for years afterwards as a result of lethal contamination.

“Cluster bombs hamper post-conflict rebuilding and rehabilitation, and the dangerous work of cluster bomb clearance absorbs funds that could be spent on other urgent humanitarian needs.”

Mr Henderson said without determined action the civilian harm caused by these weapons will continue to grow.

“A legally binding international treaty to ban the use, production, stockpiling and transfer of cluster munitions, and to require assistance to survivors, help for affected communities and clearance of contaminated land is critical to protection of life and promotion of peace.’

Mr Henderson said the calls for certain technical exemptions from a ban are not convincing.

The Dublin Diplomatic Conference on Cluster Munitions to negotiate a new instrument of international humanitarian law banning cluster munitions that cause unacceptable harm to civilians will take place from at the end of May 2008.

The member Churches of the NCCA are urging the Australian Government to take a leading role in this global effort to develop and support a legally binding treaty.