tuque /tūk/ n Canadian English, var. toque [19th c. Canadian French, from the French toque, from the Basque tauka] 1 A close-fitting knitted cap, often with a long tapering end or tassel or pompom. 2 fig Something quintessentially Canadian.
souq /sūk/ n from the Arabic سوق var. souk 1 An open-air marketplace. 2 fig A central meeting place for the circulation of news and ideas.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Cluster Love, Not Bombs

A five-day conference in Wellington, New Zealand was held this week to organize a global effort to ban cluster bombs. The Conference on Cluster Munitions (official website) hosted representatives from more than one hundred countries and various human rights and nongovernmental organizations, as well as technical experts and survivors of cluster bomb attacks. The goal: a comprehensive treaty, by the end of 2008, to make cluster munitions illegal under international law.

(The conference circulated a sobering video press release on YouTube here.)

Canada is being represented, in a matter of speaking, by Paul Hannon, executive director of Mines Action Canada (MAC), the Canadian wing of the Geneva-based International Campaign to Ban Landmines (ICBM). On its website, MAC notes:

“Some governments are trying to weaken a treaty by calling for exemptions based on dubious technical fixes. The Cluster Munition Coalition, of which Mines Action Canada is a founding member, is calling for the strongest possible ban on cluster bombs.”

Canadians should take note: Canada is one of the 94 countries pledged to the 2007 Oslo Process to ban cluster bombs (not to be confused with that other Oslo Process). And it was in Ottawa, of course, that the landmark landmine (ban) treaty was signed in 1997.

The conference comes on the heels of a Human Rights Watch (HRW) report, released February 17, on the use of cluster bombs during the 2006 Israel-Hezbollah war. (Press release; full report.)

According to HRW, Israel dropped from planes or fired from ground-based Multiple Launch Rocket Systems more than 4.6 million cluster “submunitions,” including many that hit civilian areas in southern Lebanon. As many as 1 million of these did not explode on impact, and are therefore still a threat to people in the region. The report says that at least 200 civilians have been killed or maimed from tardily exploding cluster bombs since the war ended. Hezbollah also fired cluster bombs on Israel during the war, killing at least one and injuring 12.

Also according to the report: Canada is one of several countries to possess cluster bombs (the so-called “Rockeye” anti-tank bombs), although the Canadian military did announce (in 2004) a project to decommission and destroy all of these munitions in its arsenal.

However, according to HRW Canada is still one of 34 cluster-munitions producing countries.

Other links:

  • The recently launched Arabic website of the International Campaign to Ban Landmines.
  • Landmine Action details the cleanup effort of unexploded cluster munitions in Western Sahara, used by both sides in the 1975-1988 war between Morocco and Saharawi separatists.

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