INTERVENTION BY THE HOLY SEE
STATEMENT OF H.E. MONS. SILVANO MARIA TOMASI
In the context of our work on submunitions, one must note each time that the succession of armed conflicts in the past 50 years constitutes a pressing and renewed appeal to the various States, and in particular to the States Parties to the CCW, to seriously review the consequences of the use of submunitions.
The latest war in Lebanon brings us tragic proof of the humanitarian tragedy that is unfolding before our eyes. The images and accounts we receive are alarming; they are confirmed by the first statistics issued by the United Nations, which reveal the gravity and extent of this problem.
The reason for action, Mr Chairman, is neither a mental illusion nor one of a theoretical nature: it is offered unfortunately by dozens of innocent victims and by the suffering that thousands of families have undergone for years.
So far, we have heard no convincing proof from those who consider these weapons legitimate. In any case, every weapon is declared legitimate before it is banned or regulated. Has not this been the case with chemical, biological, incendiary and blinding laser weapons? Declaring a specific weapon "legitimate" does not make it any more acceptable or less inhuman.
Mr Chairman: An improvement in the quality of submunitions cannot in itself be the solution. Narrowing failure rates to 1 or 2 percent means nothing in itself. One percent of 100,000 cluster bombs is a large number. Targeting and proportionality are also elements that demand consideration.
The Holy See believes a basic reflection on the nature and use of submunitions is urgently necessary. The victims of past conflicts and the potential victims of conflicts to come cannot wait for years of negotiations and discussions.
Consequently, a moratorium is called for on the use of these weapons. At the same time, States Parties to the CCW must set to work.
The Conference for Examination that is being set up should be able to adopt a specific mandate to begin the discussion and negotiation of an effective instrument for eradicating the risks associated with submunitions.
International humanitarian law must be better respected and further enriched in this area, if we do not want an extra cause to perpetuate poverty and underdevelopment in a certain number of already severely disadvantaged countries.