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The recent use of cluster bombs in populated areas of South Lebanon
[1,2] is probably a violation of the Geneva Conventions. However, even
when used on military targets, a substantial proportion (eg, 17% in one
study ), do not explode on impact and hence become a long-term hazard
for civilians. Particularly unjust is that in some areas this type of
unexploded ordnance has been shown to cause more injuries to children than
After conflict, land will eventually revert to being used by
civilians and thus the same issues arise as those for landmines. As with
the 1997 Ottawa Mine Ban Treaty (now with 151 ratifications or accessions
by countries) there is a need to properly ban these indiscriminate weapons
in a specific international treaty. The legislation adopted by Belgium to
ban the manufacture and use of cluster bombs could provide model legal
text for such a treaty. Weapons-exporting nations, in particular the
United States, should also take leadership and prepare the way for such an
international treaty by immediately freezing the trade in these and other
weapons that kill and injure civilians long after a conflict has ended.
1. Sarig M. Israel Medical Association condemns attacks on
hospitals—but not Israel’s use of cluster bombs. BMJ 2006;333:464.
2. Dyer O. Cluster bombs remain in Lebanon. BMJ 2006;333:412.
3. Mannion S, Chaloner E. Potential health hazards of cluster bombing
in the Shomali Valley, Afghanistan in October-November 2001. Mil Med 2003;
4. Bilukha OO, Brennan M, Woodruff BA. Death and injury from
landmines and unexploded ordnance in Afghanistan. JAMA 2003;290:650-3.