On Wednesday 9 April, Birrarung Marr Park in the centre of Melbourne was “hit” by a real-to-life model cluster bomb, including 202 bright yellow “bomblets”, as part of a Uniting Church initiative to bring home to Australians the true horror of these weapons currently being used by US and British forces in Iraq – as indeed the US have been using them around the world at least since the 70s.
A media release from the Uniting Church points out that these bombs are not only inaccurate, but also have a high failure rate, resulting in bomblets remaining active and thus highly lethal for years after their use. Indeed, spokesperson Mark Zirnzak mentioned that people are still being killed and maimed by these weapons in Laos, thirty years after the bombs were dropped. A strong case could be made that these weapons breach Articles 51, 57 and 85 of Additional Protocol 1 of the Geneva Convention, thus making their use a war crime.
The Rev David Pargeter, Uniting Church Director of Justice and International Mission, is calling for a Senate inquiry into Australia’s possible complicity in the use of these bombs, and any breach of the Geneva convention which Australia may have committed as a result. Other speakers were the Rev Lorraine Parkinson, Uniting Church congregational Minister, and Associate Professor Lou Irving, State Co-ordinator of the Medical Association for the Prevention of War.
The cluster bomb showers “bomblets”over an area from 40m by 60m up to 120m by 240m, depending on the height it is dropped from. Note the bright yellow colour, particularly attractive to young children – also the colour of food aid packages dropped in Afghanistan for example…
The British version – primarily designed to attack armour. The notched steel wire around the outside of the casing breaks into more than 2000 fragments:
A photograph taken in Afghanistan showing the aftermath of a cluster bomb – some of the unexploded bomblets are marked with a red arrow: