The Aotearoa New Zealand Joint Working Group on Landmines and Cluster Munitions has urged New Zealand to use all diplomatic means possible to discourage the USA from using cluster munitions in any military intervention in Syria, in keeping with New Zealand’s obligations as a state party to the Convention on Cluster Munitions. Christian World Service is a member of the Working Group.
In a letter to the Minister of Foreign Affairs yesterday, the Aotearoa New Zealand Joint Working Group on Landmines and Cluster Munitions noted that the New York Times and others have reported that a range of United States officials have described plans for possible military intervention in Syria as being likely to involve scores of Tomahawk cruise missiles launched from US warships.
The Aotearoa New Zealand Joint Working Group on Landmines and Cluster Munitions is deeply concerned about the protection of civilians from the use of any explosive weapons with wide area effects in populated areas, and is especially concerned about the possible use of cluster munitions. Tomahawk land attack missiles (TLAM) are configured with a variety of warheads, and one variant – the TLAM-D – has a weapons payload of 166 BLU-97 cluster submunitions.
In the last reported use of cluster munitions by the United States, on 17 December 2009 in Yemen, one or more Tomahawk cruise missiles loaded with BLU-97 bomblets struck the hamlet of al-Majala in southern Abyan province. The strike killed at least 41 civilians, and at least four more civilians were killed and 13 wounded by unexploded bomblets after the attack. Four years later, the site of the attack remains contaminated by cluster munition remnants.
Cluster munitions used by the Syrian regime have already caused numerous civilian casualties and New Zealand’s condemnation of that action has been welcomed. While Syria’s reported use of chemical weapons is unconscionable, it does not legitimate the use of another indiscriminate weapon that will kill and maim yet more civilians.
New Zealand, along with all state parties to the Convention on Cluster Munitions, has an obligation under Article 21 to promote the norms it establishes and to “make its best efforts to discourage states not party to this Convention from using cluster munitions”.
The Aotearoa New Zealand Joint Working Group on Landmines and Cluster Munitions therefore urges New Zealand to seek immediate assurance from the United States that it will explicitly rule out the use of cluster munitions in any military intervention in Syria.
30 August 2013