GENEVA, SEPT. 7, 2006 (Zenit.org).- The Holy See appealed for a moratorium on the use of cluster munitions and for international treaties to restrict them, lamenting the thousands of deaths caused by the indiscriminate weapons.
Archbishop Silvano Tomasi, the Holy See’s permanent observer to the U.N. office in Geneva, made this point during a meeting of a group of governmental experts on the Convention on Conventional Weapons. The meeting began Aug. 28 and ended Wednesday.
Cluster munitions are weapons that include cargo containers and so-called submunitions.
The cargo containers are fired, launched and dropped by aircraft or land-based artillery. The containers open over a target area and disperse large numbers of the submunitions that are designed to explode when they hit the target.
Submunitions are classified as either bomblets, grenades or mines, and can be powerful enough to destroy armored vehicles.
The vast majority of cluster munitions contain hundreds of submunitions that are unguided and that cover 1 square kilometer (0.4 square mile) with explosions and shrapnel.
Archbishop Tomasi pointed out that these cluster munitions were used in the war in Lebanon, causing a “humanitarian tragedy.”
“The images and testimonies reaching us are alarming,” he said.
As of Aug. 30, the United Nations recorded 13 dead and 47 injured by cluster munitions since the cease-fire. The U.N. and bomb disposal teams identified 405 individual cluster-strike sites contaminated by submunitions and cleared more than 2,900 unexploded devices in 15 days of work.
Cluster bombs contain a device that, when opened, release a large number of bomblets. These submunitions can perforate armored vehicles with their explosive cargo, wound or kill people with their shrapnel, and cause fires.
“The victims of past conflicts and the potential victims of future conflicts cannot wait for years of negotiations and discussions” on the use of these weapons, said Archbishop Tomasi. Thus a moratorium is imperative on their use, he added.
At the same time, in the name of past and future victims, the Holy See official called for the adoption of an international treaty to ban or restrict the use of these conventional weapons with indiscriminate effects.
“Until now, we have not seen convincing proofs on the part of those who consider these weapons legitimate,” the prelate said. “Anyway, every weapon has been classified as legitimate before being prohibited or regulated.”
“Isn’t that the case of chemical, biological, incendiary and laser weapons?” he asked. “The fact of declaring a weapon legitimate does not make it more acceptable or less inhuman.”