Foreign Minister must speak out over use of cluster bombs

29 August 2006

Foreign Minister must speak out over use of cluster bombs

SP Member of Parliament Krista van Velzen has described the Dutch government’s position regarding the use of cluster bombs by Israel as “disappointing and cowardly”. Foreign Minister Ben Bot refuses to take any standpoint in relation to the question of whether Israel’s possible use of cluster bombs transgresses international law governing warfare. “Dutch politicians from left to right agree that Bot must bring pressure to bear on Israel as much as on Hezbollah to consider civilians,” Ms Van Velzen said. “In doing so he cannot keep quiet over the use of cluster bombs by Israel, because that is as much of a crime as the indiscriminately targeted firing of Katusha rockets.”

Krista van Velzen“Dutch governments have always recognised that putting the civilian population and civilian property in danger represents a transgression of international law. Human Rights Watch has stated that many people were wounded and one person was killed in the Lebanon during an attack using cluster bombs,” said Ms Van Velzen. “Foreign Minister Ben Bot should be demanding an international enquiry into breaches of rules of conduct in warfare by all of the involved parties. He should also issue a protest against the use of cluster bombs. Averting your eyes and declaring that as a minister you do not in any case have enough information to form an opinion is exceptionally cowardly and very disappointing. Moreover such an attitude renders the Netherlands’ pleas for international law to be respected implausible.”

Cluster bombs consist of a large grenade which on exploding showers around two hundred small bombs over a wide area. Any which don’t go off immediately serve as land mines and explode later, when stood on or touched. They create therefore a great number of civilian casualties, often long after the fighting has ended. The International Red Cross has for these reasons stated that cluster weapons are inhuman and that their use should be banned. The SP has long argued for a broadening of the Treaty of Ottawa, the successful international agreement of 1997 banning land mines. Unfortunately this Treaty does not forbid cluster weapons but this must be changed. Krista Van Velzen has in the past demanded a Dutch moratorium on the use of cluster weapons and that the Dutch government play an active role in the establishment of an international treaty outlawing them.

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