Dutch air force to scrap cluster bombs

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The controversial cluster bomb are similar to landmines as they are equipped with a detonator but not with a self-destruct mechanism.

17 April 2008

THE NETHERLANDS - The Dutch air force is to dispose of the most controversial type of cluster bombs. The bombs, known as CBU-87s, are carried by F16 fighter aircraft and eject hundreds of small submunitions as they land.

Cluster bombs were introduced during the Second World War. They are often used to cover a large area, for example to bomb an airport. The bombs are equipped with a detonator but not with a self-destruct mechanism. This means that they can remain a threat to civilians for several decades after a conflict has ended, just like landmines.

Many children in combat zones are killed or injured after they find "bomblets" that have failed to explode on impact and play with them. Ninety-eight percent of cluster bomb victims are in fact civilians.

In a letter to the Lower House announcing the decision, Defence Minister Eimert van Middelkoop says the cluster bombs are responsible for an unacceptable degree of human suffering.

Another type of cluster bomb, the M261 missile head used by Apache helicopters will continue to be used. The M261 only contains only nine submunitions, making it only as dangerous as any other unexploded ordnance. Consequently, the minister does not consider it necessary to ban this type of cluster bomb.

Socialist Party MP Krista van Velsen criticises the decision as she says it means the end of a moratorium on the use of all Dutch cluster bombs. The SP politician, who has spent many years campaigning against all types of cluster bomb, accuses the minister of taking half-measures. "Should I hang out half a flag," she asks.

The defence minister's decision, however, is in line with international agreements to ban cluster bombs with more than ten submunitions. As a result of the decision all CBU-87s will now be destroyed.

An international conference on this issue will be held in Dublin in May.

[Radio Netherlands / Expatica]

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