Concern over cluster bomb loopholes


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14-05-2011 08:18 AM


ABC Canberra 666

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ABC Canberra 666


14-05-2011 08:18 AM



14-05-2011 08:53 AM

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2011-05-14 08:18:50

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LUDLAM, Sen Scott

FRANCIS, Adrienne


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Concern over cluster bomb loopholes

Adrienne Francis reported this story on Saturday, May 14, 2011 08:15:00

ELIZABETH JACKSON: Australia is under pressure to toughen its stance on the use of cluster bombs.
Despite supporting a ban on them, a loophole in the legislation allows Australian soldiers to fight
alongside nations which still allow the use of the weapons.

Adrienne Francis reports.

ADRIENNE FRANCIS: They're an indiscriminate and vicious weapon of war. An individual cluster bomb
can contain hundreds of smaller bombs. Up to half may not explode on impact. Instead they
frequently maim civilians, like 19-year-old Afghani Soraj Habib.

A decade ago Soraj Habib picked up a canister from a park in Herat. The yellow canisters are often
mistaken for toys.

SORAJ HABIB: It's very interesting to me. I put it in my bag, it exploded. And this exploded one of
my cousins killed and four person with me injured and I lost both of my legs and one of my fingers.

ADRIENNE FRANCIS: Soraj Habib is visiting Australia to raise awareness of the toll taken by cluster

Greens Senator Scott Ludlam was among his audience in Canberra.

SCOTT LUDLAM: His story is incredibly moving. They thought he was dead. They got him out of the
morgue and an uncle realised his body was still warm and since then he has become a leading
advocate worldwide for the elimination of these weapons.

ADRIENNE FRANCIS: In 2008 Australia was one of the first nations to support an international treaty
which seeks to eliminate cluster bombs. More than 100 countries are now signatories to the
Convention on Cluster Munitions.

SCOTT LUDLAM: We are resolved in no circumstances to invest in them or to support investment in
them. We won't participate in joint operations if they are being used. The treaty itself, or the
convention itself, is extremely clear.

ADRIENNE FRANCIS: But the Greens and human rights advocates are concerned about legislation drafted
by the Federal Government to implement the convention domestically.

SCOTT LUDLAM: We were really concerned about the sloppy drafting, that it looked as though there
were quite serious loopholes, and that was confirmed in evidence that the Senate Standing Committee
took into the bill.

ADRIENNE FRANCIS: A spokesman for the Federal Attorney-General says the legislation allows
Australian forces to continue to participate in joint operations with allies that are not
signatories to the convention.

Cluster bomb survivors, human rights advocates and the Greens are calling for amendments to
prohibit such joint operations, the stockpiling of munitions in Australia, and investment in the

SCOTT LUDLAM: The second amendment goes to the issue of interoperability, which is whether we are
happy for the Australian Defence Force to be able to load the weapon and aim the weapon as long as
somebody else is firing the weapon. That kind of conduct would be blatantly outside the ambit of
the convention that we are meant to be upholding and yet that is the way that the Australian
Government has designed for it to work.

ADRIENNE FRANCIS: Cluster bomb survivor Soraj Habib met with the Federal Attorney-General Robert
McClelland and an adviser to the Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd to discuss these issues.

SORAJ HABIB: Yeah, the listened to me. But maybe let's see what they do.

ADRIENNE FRANCIS: A spokesman for the Attorney-General says Australia is committed to advocating
against the use of cluster weapons, and Australia will contribute to rebuilding countries affected
by these weapons.

Scott Ludlam is hopeful Soraj Habib's message will lead to legislative changes. He expects the
cluster munitions bill will be debated in the Senate next month.

ELIZABETH JACKSON: Adrienne Francis with that report.