“Concern over cluster bomb loopholes
By Adrienne Francis
“ELIZABETH JACKSON: Australia is under pressure to toughen its stance on the use of cluster bombs. Despite supporting a ban on them, a loophole in the legislation allows Australian soldiers to fight alongside nations which still allow the use of the weapons.
Adrienne Francis reports.
ADRIENNE FRANCIS: They’re an indiscriminate and vicious weapon of war. An individual cluster bomb can contain hundreds of smaller bombs. Up to half may not explode on impact. Instead they frequently maim civilians, like 19-year-old Afghani Soraj Habib.
A decade ago Soraj Habib picked up a canister from a park in Herat. The yellow canisters are often mistaken for toys.
SORAJ HABIB: It’s very interesting to me. I put it in my bag, it exploded. And this exploded one of my cousins killed and four person with me injured and I lost both of my legs and one of my fingers.
ADRIENNE FRANCIS: Soraj Habib is visiting Australia to raise awareness of the toll taken by cluster bombs.
Greens Senator Scott Ludlam was among his audience in Canberra.
SCOTT LUDLAM: His story is incredibly moving. They thought he was dead. They got him out of the morgue and an uncle realised his body was still warm and since then he has become a leading advocate worldwide for the elimination of these weapons.
ADRIENNE FRANCIS: In 2008 Australia was one of the first nations to support an international treaty which seeks to eliminate cluster bombs. More than 100 countries are now signatories to the Convention on Cluster Munitions.
SCOTT LUDLAM: We are resolved in no circumstances to invest in them or to support investment in them. We won’t participate in joint operations if they are being used. The treaty itself, or the convention itself, is extremely clear.
ADRIENNE FRANCIS: But the Greens and human rights advocates are concerned about legislation drafted by the Federal Government to implement the convention domestically.
SCOTT LUDLAM: We were really concerned about the sloppy drafting, that it looked as though there were quite serious loopholes, and that was confirmed in evidence that the Senate Standing Committee took into the bill.
ADRIENNE FRANCIS: A spokesman for the Federal Attorney-General says the legislation allows Australian forces to continue to participate in joint operations with allies that are not signatories to the convention.
Cluster bomb survivors, human rights advocates and the Greens are calling for amendments to prohibit such joint operations, the stockpiling of munitions in Australia, and investment in the munitions.
SCOTT LUDLAM: The second amendment goes to the issue of interoperability, which is whether we are happy for the Australian Defence Force to be able to load the weapon and aim the weapon as long as somebody else is firing the weapon. That kind of conduct would be blatantly outside the ambit of the convention that we are meant to be upholding and yet that is the way that the Australian Government has designed for it to work.
ADRIENNE FRANCIS: Cluster bomb survivor Soraj Habib met with the Federal Attorney-General Robert McClelland and an adviser to the Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd to discuss these issues.
SORAJ HABIB: Yeah, the listened to me. But maybe let’s see what they do.
ADRIENNE FRANCIS: A spokesman for the Attorney-General says Australia is committed to advocating against the use of cluster weapons, and Australia will contribute to rebuilding countries affected by these weapons.
Scott Ludlam is hopeful Soraj Habib’s message will lead to legislative changes. He expects the cluster munitions bill will be debated in the Senate next month.
ELIZABETH JACKSON: Adrienne Francis with that report.”
(Quelle: ABC News.)