Tuesday, 4 November 2008
Cluster Munitions and Anti-Personnel Mines Bill 2008: Second Stage.
I move: "That the Bill be now read a Second Time."
The principal purpose of this Bill is to make provision in domestic law for the obligations the State will assume under the Convention on Cluster Munitions. As the House will be aware, the convention was adopted by consensus at the conclusion of the Dublin diplomatic conference last May at Croke Park. It will be opened for signature at a ceremony in Oslo on 3 December and will enter into force six months after 30 states have ratified it.
The Government is committed to promoting the earliest possible entry into force of the convention and, as a demonstration of that commitment, we have given priority to the early publication and enactment of the present Bill, so that Ireland will be in a position both to sign and ratify the convention on 3 December. The programme for Government commits us to campaign for a complete ban on cluster munitions. I know this priority is also shared by all Members of the House. Deputies are aware of the loss of life and limb due to these horrendous weapons and have previously expressed their support for action to bring an end to this scourge.
The successful conclusion of negotiations on the Convention on Cluster Munitions under Irish chairmanship represents one of the most significant contributions to the development of international humanitarian law in recent years. I am very proud of the contribution made by officials of my Department and by members of the Defence Forces to this success.
International humanitarian law is the branch of the law concerned with the conduct of armed conflict. Once an armed conflict begins, international humanitarian law applies to limit its effects. Without it the barbarism and brutality of armed conflict would be without restriction. International humanitarian law limits the right of the parties to an armed conflict in their choice of methods and means of warfare. It also requires them to spare those who do not, or can no longer, take a direct part in hostilities, thereby protecting civilians, as well as captured and incapacitated combatants, from the effects of conflict.
The basic rule of international humanitarian law in the protection of the civilian population in time of armed conflict is that the parties to the conflict must at all times distinguish between civilians and combatants and between civilian objects and military objectives. The rule permits them to direct their operations against combatants and military objectives only. Indiscriminate attacks are prohibited.
Where a weapon is incapable of distinguishing between civilian and combatant, or where it is prone to use in such a manner that the effect is similar, it will tend to violate this general basic rule. It has been found, however, that as with anti-personnel mines, the general rule has not been sufficient in itself to prevent the atrocious humanitarian consequences arising from the use of cluster munitions. A number of states continued to insist that it was possible to observe the basic rule and still use cluster munitions. For Ireland and our partners in the Oslo process, and for the many like-minded countries that joined us, it was clear that a new instrument of international humanitarian law dealing specifically with cluster munitions was essential.
Historically, cluster bombs have resulted in significant damage in every conflict in which they have been used and have repeatedly caused excessive harm to civilians. Among the first uses of cluster munitions was an attack on Grimsby during the Second World War, where many civilians were killed and injured by munitions which had not exploded upon impact. The weapon subsequently formed part of NATO arsenals during the Cold War. They were used on an enormous scale during the Vietnam War, with Laos becoming the most affected country in the world. Over 260 million sub-munitions were dropped during the Indochina conflict and at the end of the war it was estimated that some 80 million of these sub-munitions were left unexploded. They continue to cause civilian casualties, restrict access to land and impede social and economic development there.
Cluster munitions were also used extensively during the conflict in Kosovo. Almost 235,000 sub-munitions were dropped across the region against a range of mobile and static targets during the NATO campaign in 1999. Human Rights Watch has documented 75 civilian deaths and injuries as a direct result of cluster munitions during the bombing campaign. They have continued to affect civilians there, even after hostilities have ceased. To date, at least 152 post conflict casualties are estimated to have been caused by unexploded bomblets. In 2002, Landmine Action published detailed case-studies of social and economic impacts resulting from cluster munitions contamination in western Kosovo. These case studies highlighted issues such as the abandonment of traditional pastoral practices due to contamination of high summer pastures, extensive contamination making agricultural subsistence doubtful, and hampered infrastructure renovation, which in turn acted as a barrier to the return of displaced populations.
The high failure rate, large numbers of sub-munitions and extremely wide strike pattern means that even a single cluster munitions strike in or near an agricultural area can pose a significant long-term socioeconomic and physical threat to the population. Reports by the Iraq landmine impact survey in 2006 revealed that in some areas of southern Iraq, 100% of agricultural land and 95% of pasture land was inaccessible due to explosive remnants of war, a high proportion of which were cluster bomb sub-munitions. Due to desperation, necessity and the long time it takes to clear affected areas, many people take the conscious risk to return to their land before it has been cleared. This all too often results in the most tragic of consequences.
The 2006 Lebanon war offers a substantial example of the destruction and devastation that the widespread use of cluster munitions can cause. Some 4 million sub-munitions were fired into south Lebanon by Israel. This left approximately 1 million unexploded individual sub-munitions in the area. Areas contaminated included agricultural land and water and power infrastructure. The UN Food and Agriculture Organization estimated that in large areas of southern Lebanon at least 25% of the cultivated area was contaminated by unexploded cluster sub-munitions. By December 2007, 217 civilians in Lebanon had been killed or injured by unexploded ordnance, almost all by sub-munitions.
Most recently, it has been reported that both sides in the Russian-Georgian conflict engaged in the use of cluster munitions. It is our hope that even states which do not immediately become party to the new convention will, nonetheless, be inhibited from using cluster munitions by the stigmatisation effect of widespread adherence by others.
In the light of the absence of progress in the Geneva forum offered by the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons, and inspired by the process which led to the conclusion of the Ottawa Convention on the Prohibition of Anti-Personnel Mines, Norway convened a meeting in Oslo in February 2007 of countries ready to explore ways to address the issue of cluster munitions in a determined and effective manner. Ireland was among the 46 states, including some cluster munition users and-or producers, such as France, Germany and the United Kingdom, which committed themselves in the Oslo declaration to complete an international treaty by the end of 2008 to "prohibit the use, production, transfer and stockpiling of cluster munitions that cause unacceptable harm to civilians".
The Oslo process, as it became known, was driven forward by a core group of like-minded countries, comprising Norway, Ireland, Austria, the Holy See, Mexico, New Zealand, and Peru, and was characterised by a strong partnership between government, international organisations and civil society. From the outset, there was a strong humanitarian focus to ensure that any agreement reached would adequately address the numerous relief and development issues that are left in the wake of the use of cluster munitions. The attitude taken was that this was not a classic disarmament negotiation, where both sides faced each other in an atmosphere of mutual distrust, but rather a humanitarian one, where there was general agreement and commitment to our objective, but how best to achieve this had still to be established. I am pleased to say that this spirit of collaboration prevailed throughout and contributed to the excellent outcome.
Significantly, at the second international conference of the Oslo process in Lima, in May 2007, the composition of the process began to evolve and expand. Some 68 countries were represented there, many of them developing states from Latin America, Africa and Asia, including many states affected by cluster munitions. An enduring feature of the Oslo process is the increasingly widespread participation from developing and affected states.
Momentum for the Oslo process continued to grow exponentially and the third international conference in Vienna in December 2007 was attended by 138 countries. The core group discussion text tabled at the conference resulted in collective indications of support for a strong treaty that would focus not only on a widespread ban on cluster munitions but also on support for victim assistance and co-operation. The discussions also identified a number of potentially contentious issues, including the definition of cluster munitions and the so-called interoperability issue of military co-operation with states not party to a future treaty.
Far from derailing the Oslo process, these difficulties served to encourage us to redouble our efforts in order to achieve a successful outcome to the penultimate conference in Wellington in February 2008. Wellington was an extremely important stage in the process as the anticipated final declaration was intended to act as a basis on which formal treaty negotiations could be held in Dublin. Although the conference saw some tense and even difficult exchanges, much was achieved. The draft convention text was discussed in detail. While major differences remained on key issues of scope and definitions, as well as interoperability and transition periods, prospective solutions for many less contentious issues were identified. The Irish delegation worked extremely hard to encourage support for the Wellington declaration and by the conclusion of the conference there was an overwhelming endorsement by 82 states to associate themselves with the text. Japan and South Africa, neither of which had signed up to Oslo, also endorsed the declaration and committed to attend the Dublin conference. Commitment to the Wellington declaration was in effect the entry ticket to the Dublin conference and many more states committed themselves in the run-up to Dublin.
The Dublin diplomatic conference was attended by 127 states, with 107 attending as participants and 20 as observers. A large number of international, intergovernmental and non-governmental organisations also attended as observers. Many significant differences needed to be resolved on key issues such as definitions, the possible period of transition to a ban and future military co-operation, including in UN mandated missions, with states not party to the convention. However, following two weeks of intense work and building on the preparatory discussions held at the earlier meetings, the conference adopted by consensus the text of the Convention on Cluster Munitions.
I will now set out the main provisions of this ground breaking convention. There is a comprehensive prohibition on the use, development, production, acquisition, stockpiling, retention and transfer of cluster munitions, as well as on assisting, encouraging or inducing anyone to engage in behaviour prohibited to a state party under the convention.
The definition of a cluster munition under the convention is comprehensive and will lead to the prohibition of all cluster munitions that cause unacceptable harm to civilians.
The convention prohibits all types of cluster munitions that have ever been used in an armed conflict. Furthermore, following proposals made by the Irish delegation, the convention also prohibits explosive bomblets that are specifically designed to be dispersed or released from dispensers affixed to aircraft in the same way as it does cluster munitions proper. This is an extremely important provision which closes potential loopholes created by new technologies.
The convention provides that a state party's stockpiles of cluster munitions must be destroyed within eight years of the convention's entry into force for that state party. This period may, under exceptional circumstances, be extended. In view of the fact that some states may not have facilities suitable for destroying stockpiled cluster munitions, the transfer of cluster munitions to another state party for the purpose of destruction is permitted. Furthermore, the retention or acquisition of a limited number of cluster munitions and explosive submunitions for training purposes, as well as their transfer to another state party for such purposes, is permitted. The number of submunitions retained or acquired shall not exceed the minimum absolutely necessary and there is an obligation to report on the numbers retained or acquired and the use made of them.
With regard to the clearance of cluster munition remnants, such remnants in areas under the jurisdiction or control of a state party are to be cleared and destroyed within ten years of the convention's entry into force for that state party, or within ten years of the end of active hostilities in cases where such remnants arise after such entry into force. Provision is made for the extension of this deadline where circumstances warrant it.
An important feature of the convention is the onus it puts on state parties that have used cluster munitions against other states parties to assist in the clearance of cluster munition remnants. They are strongly encouraged to provide technical, financial, material or human resources assistance to the latter state party as well as providing the precise locations of any strike. This element of the convention, as the International Committee of the Red Cross has stated, establishes a broader norm so those who engage in armed conflict can no longer walk away from the long-term consequences of the munitions they use, leaving the burden to devastated local communities. The convention includes comprehensive provisions on assistance by state parties to cluster munition victims in areas under their jurisdiction or control. They should adequately provide age and gender sensitive assistance, including medical care, rehabilitation and psychological support, as well as provide for social and economic inclusion.
Article 6 of the convention includes detailed provisions regarding international co-operation and assistance. This will be most relevant to the obligations regarding stockpile destruction, clearance and destruction of cluster munition remnants and victim assistance. The article also stipulates that states in a position to do so shall provide technical, material and financial assistance to state parties affected by cluster munitions. Furthermore, a state party may seek assistance from the international community, including states parties, the UN and NGOs in developing a national action plan.
The provisions of the convention in regard to victim assistance have been acknowledged as setting a new benchmark in this area. Irish Aid is urgently examining how best to integrate this aspect into its funding and co-operation activities. Ireland is fully committed to support for victim assistance. A case in point is our dedication to the Ottawa Convention on anti-personnel land mines. In 2007 alone, we provided funding to 11 affected countries, including €1 million for integrated mine clearance projects in Laos.
The convention lays down detailed obligations regarding annual reporting by state parties on the implementation of their obligations. It also provides for meetings between the state parties. The first meeting must be convened within one year of the entry into force of the convention with subsequent meetings to be convened by the Secretary General of the United Nations annually until the first review conference.
Taking account of the fact that, at least initially, not all states will be party to the convention and that some states not party may wish to continue to use cluster munitions, provision is made in Article 21 for state parties to engage in military co-operation and operations with states not party to the convention that might engage in activities prohibited to a state party. This provision specifically does not authorise a state party to develop, produce or otherwise acquire cluster munitions, to itself stockpile or transfer cluster munitions, to itself use cluster munitions or to expressly request the use of cluster munitions in cases where the choice of munitions used is within its exclusive control. When considering this article, it should be noted that each state party is obliged to encourage states not party to the convention to become party to it and, where it engages in military co-operation or operations as referred to above, to notify the states concerned of its obligations under the convention, promote the norms established by the convention and make its best efforts to discourage states not party to the convention from using cluster munitions.
Ireland believes that the prohibition on cluster munitions contained in the convention will become established as a new norm of international humanitarian law. This will happen when states begin to feel obliged to behave in accordance with it, irrespective of whether they are parties to it. It has happened already, very successfully, in the case of the anti-personnel mine ban convention. We hope that the Convention on Cluster Munitions will have a similar effect. It would be difficult to overestimate the importance of this convention and the positive impact it will have for present and future generations of civilians caught up in zones of conflict. With the ground breaking provisions for victim assistance and clearance of contaminated areas, it represents a major advance in international humanitarian law. At the conclusion of the Dublin conference, the International Committee of the Red Cross delivered a statement stressing its humanitarian significance in which it observed:
The implementation of this treaty will undoubtedly allow many children in future conflict zones the chance to grow up to be adults. It will also afford their parents the chance to feed those children from the harvests of lands not contaminated with cluster munitions.
The statement went on to note:
In adopting this Convention [we] have put in place the last essential element in an international legal regime to address the effects of weapons that can't stop killing....we now have the tools to prevent or remedy the often tragic consequences for civilians of all explosive munitions used in armed conflicts.
The UN Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon, addressed the opening of the conference by video message and at the conclusion expressed his delight that the strong calls to address the humanitarian impact of cluster munitions had been answered. He described the convention as a new international standard that would enhance the protection of civilians, strengthen human rights and improve prospects for development. He also confirmed that he would accept depository functions and pledged the support and assistance of the entire United Nations system to states parties in implementing their treaty obligations. On 30 October, the first committee of the United Nations General Assembly adopted by consensus a resolution brought forward by Ireland, which provides the mandate for the UN Secretary-General to perform the administrative functions conferred on him by the Convention on Cluster Munitions.
The convention will be opened for signature in Oslo on 3 December this year, and will enter into force six months after the deposit of the 30th instrument of ratification, acceptance, approval or accession. Given our involvement with the Oslo process and our leadership throughout, the Government considers it imperative for Ireland to be in a position to both sign and ratify the convention on 3 December. This would be in keeping with our record on the Anti-Personnel Mine Ban Convention, where Ireland was one of only three states which signed and ratified on the first day. In order to be best placed to sign and ratify the Convention on Cluster Munitions the Government is seeking to enact this Bill within a very tight timeframe. Early enactment will ensure that the State is in a position to meet its obligations from the moment of the convention's entry into force. It was with this aim in mind that, as soon as the convention was adopted on 30 May, the relevant Departments began work on preparing the Bill.
The primary purpose of the Bill is to create offences in respect of the use, development, production, acquisition, stockpiling, retention or transfer of cluster munitions and explosive bomblets as required under the convention. We are also taking this opportunity to make similar provision for anti-personnel mines in order further to implement the Anti-Personnel Mine Ban Convention, which was ratified by Ireland in 1997. The current law on anti-personnel mines is set out in the Explosives (Land Mines) Order 1996, which was made under the Explosives Act 1875. That order is likely to be revoked by the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform upon enactment of new explosives legislation and the consequent repeal of the 1875 Act and we wish to avoid a legal vacuum.
Section 1 sets out the Short Title of the Bill and provides for its commencement. Section 2 makes provision for the interpretation of key terms as defined in both conventions, and other relevant terms. Many of the terms defined for the purposes of the Bill have been the subject of agreement in the negotiation of the two conventions and their reproduction in the domestic laws of state parties is necessary to ensure that their obligations are observed in a consistent manner among them. This is especially true for the definitions of a cluster munition, an explosive bomblet and an anti-personnel mine. If different states were to define key terms in their domestic laws in different ways co-operation between the parties to the conventions would become extremely complex and problematic and would inevitably frustrate coherent implementation of the convention.
Sections 3 and 4 are standard provisions for the laying of orders and expenses. Section 5 allows the Minister to declare by order which states are parties to the Convention on Cluster Munitions. This is necessary for the purposes of co-operation with those states under section 7 of the Bill. A similar provision enabling the Minister to declare by order the states parties to the Anti-Personnel Mine Ban Convention is made in section 8.
Section 6 makes it a criminal offence, with certain exceptions set out in section 7, to use, develop, produce, acquire, possess, retain or transfer a cluster munition or an explosive bomblet. It will also be an offence to assist, encourage or induce the commission of such an offence. Any such act committed outside the State on board an Irish ship or aircraft, or by a member of the Defence Forces, will also be an offence. Section 6 gives effect to the requirement under Article 9 of the convention to take all appropriate measures to implement the convention, including the imposition of penal sanctions to prevent and suppress any prohibited activity.
In accordance with the Convention on Cluster Munitions, section 7 permits certain acts that might otherwise be offences under section 6, namely retention or acquisition of a limited number of cluster munitions or explosive bomblets for development of, and training in, detection, clearance and destruction of these munitions, or for the development of counter-measures. This is in accordance with Article 3 of the convention. It also makes provision for their possession in the context of criminal investigations or proceedings and their transfer to the Defence Forces or to another state party for the purposes of their destruction.
Provision is also made to enable the Defence Forces to participate in United Nations mandated peacekeeping forces with a state or states that may not be party to the Convention on Cluster Munitions, in accordance with Article 21 of that convention. This is the so-called "interoperability" provision of the convention, which was the most difficult issue to resolve in the negotiations at Croke Park. Agreement was reached on Article 21 quite literally only at the last moment. Section 7(4) of the Bill will ensure that future participation by the Defence Forces in UN mandated peacekeeping operations will be consistent with the convention. Its purpose is to ensure that no member of the Defence Forces, while serving abroad with military personnel of states that are not party to the convention, such as in a UN peacekeeping mission, may find himself or herself criminally liable for an inadvertent, unintended or unavoidable act that might otherwise be an offence. The Bill makes clear that under no circumstances may he or she expressly request the use of cluster munitions.
It is very unlikely that section 7(4) of the Bill will ever be invoked. It is important to recall that Article 21 obliges every state party to the convention to work to promote universal adherence to it and the Government will continue to urge all states to become parties to the convention. Our preference in considering future contributions to peacekeeping missions will naturally be to join with states that are parties to the convention and in these circumstances the question of interoperability with states not party to it will not arise. Even were we to find ourselves as members of a peacekeeping mission that included the armed forces of a state that is not party to the convention, every effort will be made in the elaboration of codes of conduct, rules of engagement, caveats and similar agreements prepared for the mission to ensure that there is no prospect of cluster munitions playing any role. It is highly unlikely therefore that section 7(4) will ever apply but all Members of the House agree on the importance of ensuring that no member of the Defence Forces should ever face prosecution for simply carrying out his or her duty as a member of a peacekeeping mission.
Section 9 makes the use, development, production, acquisition, possession, retention or transfer of an anti-personnel mine an offence, in accordance with Article 9 of the Anti-Personnel Mine Ban Convention. Certain exceptions are permitted, in accordance with the convention, and these are provided for in section 10.
Section 13 provides for penalties to be imposed upon summary conviction and conviction on indictment of an offence under sections 6 and 9 relating to anti-personnel mines. The maximum penalty for conviction on indictment is ten years imprisonment or a fine of €250,000, or both. This reflects the seriousness of the offences concerned. Section 14 provides for liability of a body corporate and is a standard provision to ensure that bodies corporate do not avoid responsibility for conduct prohibited to individuals. Section 15 allows for the forfeiture of items to the State and is necessary to ensure that a cluster munition, explosive bomblet or anti-personnel mine seized during the investigation of a suspected offence is not returned to a claimant under the Police (Property) Act 1897 but is sent for destruction. The texts of the two conventions are set out for ease of reference in the Schedules to the Bill.
This comprehensive legislation was drawn up in consultation with the national committee on international humanitarian law, which was established in advance of the diplomatic conference. My Department has also consulted closely with the International Committee of the Red Cross, which made available an advance copy of its model law for the implementation of the Convention on Cluster Munitions.
In addition to the provisions of the Bill as published it is also the Government's intention to introduce additional legislative provision that will make it expressly clear that the investment of public moneys, including by the National Pensions Reserve Fund, in any company that produces cluster munitions or anti-personnel mines is prohibited. However this is a complex undertaking, involving consultations among numerous actors, and it was unfortunately not possible to complete work on it in time for its inclusion in the Bill as published. We hope to be able to bring this forward as soon as possible to allow for consideration on Committee Stage.
I must reiterate that it is an absolute priority for Ireland to be in a position to both sign and ratify the convention in Oslo on 3 December and this legislation will facilitate that objective. Thus I would ask all Members of the House to support the early enactment of this Bill in the best interests of international humanitarian law, disarmament and development. I thank all Members for their support to date, prior to and during the convention. I commend the Bill to the House.
I welcome the Bill. Members will remember that earlier this year I introduced a Private Members' Bill on cluster munitions. I regret that the Minister's predecessor was not magnanimous enough to accept the Bill. It was no different from this Bill, except that it went a little further. I cannot understand why the Minister refused to accept it. I welcome that the Title of the Bill has been changed from the Inhumane Munitions Bill to Cluster Munitions and Anti-Personnel Mines Bill. The original Title sent out a strange message.
Changes are required to strengthen this Bill but I support the principles behind the Bill. I regret that the Government has not published the provision to prohibit investment by a State body in any producer of cluster munitions or anti-personnel mines. Fine Gael will bring an amendment to this effect on Committee Stage. The Minister referred to the Government bringing forward such an amendment and referred to its complexity. This issue was well-flagged and, while I do not want to have a go at the Minister's predecessor, he made a big play of the fact that the Government would bring forward this measure, notwithstanding that he did not support our Bill on the night. It is unacceptable that such a measure is not included in this Bill, which is being introduced six months after our Bill, and given that this measure was well flagged. It cannot have been that difficult to have included it. The blame probably lies with the Department of Finance and perhaps that tells its own story.
The urgency to deal with this issue was shown by the Government only a few months ago. We all applauded when the Dublin Convention was agreed, but since then and since I introduced my Bill on this issue last April, we have seen yet another war in which cluster munitions were used. Last August Russia and Georgia fought a war over South Ossetia. Now is not the time to discuss the rights and wrongs of that war, who started it, who provoked it or who caused it, but both countries are guilty of the crime — in my view it is a crime — of using cluster munitions. Russia denied it, but Human Rights Watch, an organisation that has been an outspoken campaigner against cluster munitions, is convinced, based on evidence, that both countries used them. Georgia has admitted to doing so, but it insists that its cluster bombs contained a self-destruct mechanism to make them inoperable after the war.
We know from past wars elsewhere that these mechanisms do not work in all cases. At least 10% of those cluster munitions, even if they are designed to cease to be live, still remain live. While we remember the South Ossetia War as being in 2008, there is every likelihood that in 2009, 2010, 2018 and perhaps in 100 years' time people, many of them children, will still be killed by the cluster bombs dropped in 2008.
Last night the BBC broadcast a programme on the First World War. Most of us think of the First World War as having ended in 1918, but it turns out that in 2008, 90 years after the end of that war, people are still being killed by unexploded bombs that were fired in that war. What was termed "The war to end all wars" keeps on killing.
Prior to the First World War, the British artillery based here continuously fired munitions in the Glen of Imaal in Wicklow over a period of three or four weeks in preparation for the war and in respect of those munitions fired there was a one third failure rate. Many of them are to be found unexploded in the military ranges in the Glen of Imaal. I do not believe we will ever be in a position to clear them, but it is important that the safety guidelines and notices warning of them in that area are constantly reviewed. A tragedy occurred in the late 1970s when some young children were killed when they picked up an unexploded mortar bomb.
The First World War bombs that have exploded are not cluster munitions but the remnants of the normal artillery of the day. They are far less dangerous, far less widespread and far less of a threat than cluster munitions, but they are still killing. If 90 years after the end of that war, deaths continue to occur, for how many decades, maybe centuries, will people in South Ossetia be killed by cluster munitions? Will Deputies in this House a century from now be reading of young South Ossetians being killed by cluster bombs dropped in 2008?
We know that cluster munitions kill for generations after a war ends. The Laos civil war ended in 1975, but people were still being killed this year, perhaps this very day, in Laos, thanks to the cluster munitions used in that war. Cluster munitions used in the Second World War and in Vietnam are still killing.
If cluster bombs had existed in the early 1920s and had been used during our War of Independence, we would have members of our own families being killed by them still. That illustrates how dangerous they are. They kill long after the war they were used in has been forgotten, long after it has been confined to the history books, long after everyone who was alive at the time of the war and those who fought in the war has died. Cluster munitions are almost literally a war without end.
The first cluster bombs were made by Germany and dropped during the Second World War in Grimsby, as the Minister outlined. Other states copied the technology and developed it, producing carnage in country after country. In the 1960s the United States used cluster bombs in Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos. France used them in Chad in the 1960s. The United States used them in Iraq and Kuwait in 1991. Russia used them in Chechnya in the 1990s while the Sudanese Government used them against the Sudanese People's Liberation Army. Up to the end of the last century, in 1999, the United States, Britain and the Netherlands used them in Kosovo. They continue to be used in this century and not only in South Ossetia. In the current Iraq war, the US military used them. Only two years ago the Israelis used them in Lebanon.
I will cite an example from one war on the record. Globalsecurity.org indicates that, "According to the UN Mine Action Co-ordination Centre (UNMACC) in Pristina, the total number of mines and UXO (unexploded ordinances) cleared by 8 March 2001 [in Kosovo] was assessed at [more than 84,000]" — more than 84,000 in one country in one war. They were not all cluster munitions but many of them were. How many people, including children, have been or will be killed by those 84,000 unexploded bombs? When were they or will they be killed? This year? This decade? This century?
Let us not forget how cluster munitions kill. Fragments of exploding munitions travel at high velocity. When they strike they set off pressure waves within the body, with those pressure waves and the fragments and projectiles doing horrific damage to soft tissue and organs. Even a single fragment can rupture the spleen or cause the intestines to implode. If a victim survives the incident, and needless to say many will not, they may suffer from a variety of injuries, including loss of limbs, burns, puncture wounds, ruptured eardrums, blindness, or all of those and other injuries. Many of those who survive speak of wishing they had not, such is the horrific nature of their injuries.
Anton Antonowicz reported in the Daily Mirror that:
Among the 168 patients I counted [in a hospital], not one was being treated for bullet wounds. All of them, men, women, children, bore the wounds of bomb shrapnel. It peppered their bodies. Blackened the skin. Smashed heads. Tore limbs. A doctor reported that "All the injuries you see were caused by cluster bombs ... The majority of the victims were children who died because they were outside".
That is what those who use cluster munitions inflict on victims, and why those weapons must be banned by every country on every continent forever.
I want to pay tribute to the work of the Government in the Dublin conference, which produced the treaty to ban cluster munitions. In particular, I compliment the Minister, Deputy Martin, and his staff in the Department of Foreign Affairs on the excellent work they did. Ireland and the other countries in the core group of the Oslo Process, namely, Austria, the Holy See, Mexico, New Zealand, Norway and Peru, did humanity some service in helping to deliver this treaty and deserve praise for that. Those countries who assembled in Croke Park for the conference delivered one of the most significant advances for humanity in this century so far.
I also pay tribute to a number of Irish newspapers, in particular The Star, which ran a vigorous campaign on the issue and helped inform Irish people of the horrors of cluster munitions and campaigned to see their use ended. Those campaigns will have helped save lives and will have kept the issue alive in the minds of the public. They deserve our thanks.
I pay a special tribute to one world leader, Britain's Prime Minister, Gordon Brown. Britain, like many other states, fought for years to prevent this deal and refused to join it, but Gordon Brown this year over-ruled his advisers and his military, to commit Britain to abandoning the use of those weapons. That was the act of real leadership and deserves to be acknowledged.
Today, on 4 November, millions of people in the United States are going to the polls to elect the next US president. Two honourable men, Senators Obama and McCain, have fought a remarkable campaign. We will know tonight which one of them will win the race for the White House. For eight years the presidency of George Bush has resisted attempts to restrict and ban these weapons, albeit by allowing a one year ban to come into place, which is due to end in late December. I appeal to the new president, whether it is Senator Obama or Senator McCain, to follow Gordon Brown's lead and take a principled stand against these evil weapons. Senator McCain, to his credit, broke with President Bush and with his party on the issue of the use of torture, calling for it to be halted in all cases. Whether today sees the election of Senator Obama or Senator McCain as president, I hope we will see the election of a president who will take a principled stand on cluster munitions by telling the US military that they can no longer ever be used. I ask the Government to raise this issue directly with the new US president.
Fine Gael also urges the Government to raise with Russia, China, Israel, India and Pakistan their refusal to agree to the treaty ban on cluster munitions. We must not mince our words in putting on the record the unacceptability of their behaviour. Under Article 85 of the Geneva Conventions, it is a war crime to launch "an indiscriminate attack affecting the civilian population in the knowledge that such an attack will cause an excessive loss of life or injury to civilians". Under the Hague Conventions, Articles 22 and 23 state that, "The right of belligerents to adopt means of injuring the enemy is not unlimited," and that "It is especially forbidden to kill treacherously individuals belonging to the hostile nation or army". I cannot see how the use of cluster bombs can be viewed as other than a war crime and any leader who authorises their use as other than a war criminal.
I have not focused on the fact that the Bill also deals with anti-personnel mines, but I warmly welcome this inclusion. I do not know why this is only featuring in legislation in 2008 when we signed the treaty in 1997. Will the Minister clarify the reasons for the delay? However, it is a welcome, if belated, step. The fact that the Bill deals with two of the most gruesome and morally reprehensible weapons ever invented, cluster munitions and landmines, makes the legislation one of the most important enactments we have had to deal with here.
The Minister has dealt with the various sections, which are relatively straightforward. Everybody in the House supports the banning of cluster munitions which are reprehensible and indiscriminate weapons. They do not distinguish between friend and foe, or between child and adult. The implications of such weapons continue for many years after the conflict occurs. When I served in Lebanon, I often met children with one arm or one leg missing caused by playing with something that to them appeared attractive. Very often these munitions are disguised as attractive items basically to strike terror into a population.
Section 7(4) deals with the issue of interoperability. Fine Gael supports this measure. We believe it is necessary in order to enable us to participate in peacekeeping operations. I would hope that in time this section will become redundant. I am not aware if Defence Forces personnel have ever operated in a situation where cluster munitions were used by a friendly force. I would not imagine this to be the case. I know they have operated in several areas where they are a threat and one part of their missions is often to clear up such areas. If the Bill did not provide for that measure our peacekeeping, as we know it today, would come to an end. It would not be possible for us to carry out peacekeeping operations if we prohibited Irish forces from serving with personnel from countries that were not signatories to the convention, or that used these munitions or had them in stores. I would hope that with the passing of time this section of the Bill will become redundant. Much depends on the approach of the incoming President of the United States of America. I hope this will be a step that country will take.
The Bill contains no provision for applying a cost on the offender for the destruction of cluster munitions and rather requires them to be delivered to the Defence Forces for their destruction. I ask the Minister to review this provision. Fine Gael will table an amendment requiring the offender, the guilty party, to pay the cost of the destruction of the munitions.
We will also table an amendment to prevent State companies investing in companies that manufacture or are involved in the production or otherwise of such munitions. During the debate on the Fine Gael Private Members' Bill, we dealt with the issue of financial institutions producing the annual reports on companies involved in their manufacture. We may also revisit that matter.
I welcome the Bill and our party will do all we can to facilitate it so that it can all be in order by the time the signature is required, which I believe is sometime in December. I wish the Minister well and thank his officials for their work on the Bill.
I welcome the opportunity to speak on the Bill. It is important that I acknowledge the Government's intentions in introducing this legislation and the manner in which consensus was achieved on so many fundamental aspects of it over a period of a few years. I also pay tribute to people like Tony D'Costa of Pax Christi Ireland and others in the non-governmental sector who were involved not only in the issue of prohibiting cluster munitions and related ordnances, but also had continued a campaign that preceded and ran through the attempt to have a comprehensive ban on landmines.
I have a very genuine sense of both appreciation and admiration for the officials in the Department of Foreign Affairs who were involved in tasks of active diplomacy. My office, along with those of Deputy Timmins and Senator Norris, organised a meeting of parliamentarians in Buswells Hotel which coincided with the conference in Croke Park. It was useful to hear their views even though in the end I may have a reservation as to the completeness of what was achieved, a point to which I will return shortly. This active diplomacy is an exemplary action by a country like Ireland and was much appreciated internationally.
I will have the opportunity tomorrow to say that I regard Ireland's departure from our strong position on the Nuclear Suppliers Group a retrograde action. On this occasion we were in fact being very positive. When one considers Ireland's record in international law regarding the United Nations there is a high point with the non-nuclear proliferation treaty and Mr. Aiken's presence at the United Nations. There were also moments, as when with the new agenda group we sought to draw attention to the non-compliance of nuclear powers and also make the case against any proliferation that endangers the very survival of the population of the planet. In that sense, I welcome this legislation although not quite unreservedly. I have two points to make that are important in the interpretation of the Bill. The context is also very important.
The Bill stretches back to include landmines. I was a member of the Government when the landmines convention was prepared. It was very important at that stage that we produced a template of what we wanted from the conference that produced the convention. In the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs in 2006 and 2007, I proposed resolutions suggesting that Ireland, as it were, should anticipate the conference that would eventually take place in Croke Park by laying down a template to which people could then respond. The Government and I differed on that. The advice to the Government seemed to be that one should let the conference take its course and then, on the basis of securing the maximum compliance, respond to the final conclusion. It is a matter for future historians to decide which was the right course. Be that as it may, my view is that the former model is the better one. In 2006 and 2007, Belgium and Austria had followed such a path in the preparation of domestic legislation.
This is a rather long way of stating a point of view that I hold, which is that one should always use one's domestic legislation, given the activist achievement Ireland can point to, to go beyond the minimum required in the convention. In that way, one is continually raising the bar. On Committee Stage, I intend to table an amendment on interoperability. The distinguished spokesperson for Fine Gael, for whom I have the greatest respect, and I differ. I believe it is an important moral lien on participants in conflicts for Ireland to take a strong line regarding section 7. It is insufficient to claim that as long as one did not know, then one could not be involved in any kind of criminal guilt or responsibility. There is need for an absolute ban on any form of participation with a non-signatory of the treaty on cluster munitions. I will return to another one later that worried me greatly in the course of the discussions at the conference and afterwards. I want to be as scrupulously fair to the Government as I can be. It has to some extent met the suggestion that one could define a residual category of acceptable cluster munitions on a scale of human impact. I will revert to this on Committee Stage.
Out of courtesy, I suggest that the Minister examine section 30 of the Defence Act 1954, whereby the Minister for Defence has the right to authorise the placing of mines. Will section 30 survive this legislation? From my first lay view of the Bill, it will not change the Act.
The degree of consensus in the House is incredible and welcome, but we should bear in mind the question of how many permanent members of the Security Council were represented at the Croke Park conference and with what consequences. The decision of the Nuclear Suppliers Group on the US-India nuclear agreement facilitated India and its neighbour, Pakistan, neither of which was involved in the conference.
According to an NGO that appeared at a 2007 meeting of the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs, some 200 types of cluster bomb have been developed by 33 countries whereas 28 countries produce them. Millions of cluster munitions have been used in the past 40 to 50 years and billions have been stockpiled by 76 governments. This is the scale of the problem, but people are excessively polite about, for example, the actions of the Israeli Government during the conflict in southern Lebanon, where our soldiers served. Some 4 million cluster bombs were released during the last 72 hours of the truce negotiations. People suggest that one must be on one side or the other to discuss the Arab-Israeli conflict dispassionately, but the situation is an outrageous breach of humanitarian law.
Up to a point, international humanitarian law protects civilians during times of conflict. However, when the conflict is over, considerable areas have been rendered unusable. To the Minister's credit, he correctly referred to the destruction of pastoral lands and so forth that will not be usable for not one, but many generations. He also listed those who were killed after the cessation of conflicts in Kosovo and elsewhere.
When I was an election observer in Cambodia, I was in charge of the Kompong Chnang district at the top of the Tonle Sap River. One could not step out of a vehicle for fear of landmines. More importantly, I saw the tens of thousands of people who had been maimed and were still at risk. I admired people from New Zealand and elsewhere who were involved in the humanitarian task of removing mines, but I have no faith in the suggestion that those who place mines will ever tell the international community where they have been laid. There is no evidence of it in the reports of those involved in peacekeeping or conflict studies. The moral argument against landmines and so forth is not answered by suggestions that the issue can be dealt with scientifically or technologically through sharing information in future on where mines have been placed. While it would be a good idea and facilitate clearance, it will not work.
I have a problem with the definitional sections of the Bill. For example, they refer to fewer than ten elements. If one hits the target, the other nine lie unexploded. One is partially accepting the consequences of cluster munitions and their civilian impact. For this reason, I am in favour of an outright ban. I am also in favour of the question of prohibition, which would address the issue of interoperability, to which I will revert on Committee Stage.
An interesting question that may be worthy of reflection should be brought to Cabinet by the Minister. He stated that the production, transmission and carriage of cluster munitions will be prohibited. I agree with him in this respect. A unique element of the Ottawa convention, popularly known as the Diana convention, was the transfer of landmines. The Bill mentions transfer by way of ship or aircraft. This suggests that there has always been a provision to inspect an aircraft at Shannon Airport suspected of carrying landmines. In terms of cluster munitions, I presume that the same inspection rights of military aircraft will exist. I hope to be of assistance to the Government shortly in terms of such amendments as are appropriate to the Chicago convention regarding an inspection regime of leased civilian aircraft.
It is important to refer to additional points, one of which the Minister mentioned and that may be examined more closely on Committee Stage, namely, the impact on victims. At a meeting of the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs, Senator Norris and I tabled a motion stressing that victims be generously treated.
Returning to first principles, it is interesting that the total amount being spent by the United States, which is paralleled by China, the former Soviet Union and several other countries, on armaments is not decreasing. The figure for the US is approximately $600 billion, which stands in contrast against the aid budget or any minuscule amount being spent on countries such as Cambodia, Vietnam and Laos. We must remember that the bombing of Laos was one of the great inhuman acts, totally illegal and without permission even of the country involved in the bombing. Laotians are still there, still suffering with their country destroyed in an intergenerational sense, so there are issues of intergenerational justice that arise. I have saluted the achievement of the Government in respect of this legislation. I salute also the achievement of those who have worked professionally to bring about consensus. I hope they can accept that I take a harder line in regard to what should be the diplomatic thrust in respect of, for example, text. I hold the view — drawn from the experience of the preparations for the Ottawa Convention in relation to landmines — that it is better to put the template in place and to try to bring people up to it. I would argue that I am supported in this by the absence of significant figures from the Croke Park conference. It is to their shame that they were not present at that conference.
In regard to the future shape of geopolitics and the new architecture that is opening up internationally, it is important that a lien be put on countries, including India and Pakistan, that suggests what can be achieved diplomatically rather than militarily. We are coming out of a terrible couple of decades during which — we must be realistic when discussing international affairs — the United Nations has been weakened by external events and by some of its own internal practices. Also, it is has been weakened contextually in terms of its inability, often hampered by weak resolutions that have come from a security council that is not free to act in accordance with even the humanitarian principles of the charter.
In addition, there has been very little to which to point by way of UN reform during the past decade. The result of this has been a shift from what was regarded as the great promise of the end of the Cold War that the resources of the world, financial, human, technological and scientific, might be released for the great tasks of reducing avoidable diseases such as malaria to enable people to move to a state of food sufficiency and the concept of sustainable development. This has been entirely reversed. There is a growing feeling, driven by the neo-con authors of the project for a new American century, that argued, in a distortion of an old classical theory of Thucydides and the Peloponnesian war, that not to exercise power was to lose power, a complete distortion of that Greek text into which I will not be drawn. This was a disastrous interpretation of the role of resources and power in the world.
An issue then arises as to whether we can recover the diplomatic moment in international affairs, and the atmosphere is not good. For example, it is perceived as soft diplomacy to be able to go tediously towards negotiation. It is clear that the conflicts that exist in the world at present are no longer primarily inter-State but intrastate with people seizing on the vestiges of religion, nationality or ethnic identity and putting the cloak of their current conflict on them to carry them forward. This is creating a disaster in Africa and in respect of India-Pakistan relations. In those circumstances, the role of diplomacy must be expressed forcibly. We should not adjust ourselves to that which is achievable by those who are half-hearted in terms of their international obligations.
In regard to Kosovo, one of the speakers on the fringes of the conference was 27 year old Branislav Kapetanovic, a man from the Serbian Army, who lost four of his limbs and suffered extensive damage to his hearing and sight while attempting to escape an attack on an airport. NATO dropped 240,000 cluster bombs on Kosovo. This raises the issue of whether there are circumstances in which clusters should be used. I do not believe they should ever be used. Also, on whether there are circumstances in which cluster bombs can fall with limited damage — a text which continues to hover around — the answer must be "No". On whether there are circumstances in which one can participate with a State or non-signatory to the convention and simply state that as long as one does not know what is in the package one can escape moral consequence, the answer must also be "No". This is not to weaken or take from what has been achieved, it is simply to give content to what I have been saying, namely, that the bar must be raised in respect of the assertion of diplomacy above war. I was convinced of this when approximately five or six weeks prior to the Iraq War in conversation with Tariq Aziz regarding whether the diplomatic alternatives to war been exhausted. Clearly, they had not.
There are few more damaging or degrading moments at the United nations than when a false file is put into the hands of a decent man and is read out as evidence in relation to weapons of mass destruction. On the basis of a tissue of lies and a crafting of deceit and dishonesty, people were driven to war resulting in the loss of many lives. How will we ever put a final figure on the loss of life in this regard? There are many in the shadows who say our economy relies on defence spending, defence spending being the test of power, and that therefore to have power one must always be seen to exercise it. This is the old argument that the Athenians lost against Sparta, a false argument on the basis that they did not exercise their power.
As an academic, I was often appalled by the intellectuals in different countries who were willing to provide a kind of knowledge system that supported the abuse of power. I pay tribute to all of those who have worked on the text so far. I remain convinced that it can be improved by including all that is part of the international consensus and by going a little further. The Bill will, I hope, fine tune that capacity that existed in the Ottowa convention to ensure nothing is transferred to our air space that will contravene the convention. I sometimes worry about those in the human rights community and international law community who study the Geneva conventions. I would argue that it is necessary for us to pay far more attention to international rights that arise in post-conflict situations. To my mind it places an impossible burden on oneself to suggest that the aim is to resolve conflicts in the sense of eliminating them. Very often, what one is left with is the creation of an amnesty in the memory of conflict as will enable people to negotiate together and to become involved in the construction of a new form of society. The world is full of these examples.
It is important that there is a new international recognition of the post-conflict casualties. The media of the world is irresponsible again and again in respect of the manner in which it constructs its forgetfulness. During the time of the famine in Somalia one could hardly move in Mogadishu for the number of cameras there. Nobody now looks at Somalia. Few people visit Cambodia where in the archives in the capital one can see paper rotting because nobody is there to look after it, where there are huge education problems because of an absence of teachers. Even fewer people visit Laos, and on it goes in many cases. The morality associated with the banning of cluster munitions and other anti-personnel devices requires that one goes further in taking up the consequences of actions that were taken at times when there was not such enlightened thinking.
Another issue dealt with in section 7 — I will return to it on Committee Stage — relates to measures necessary for people to address such matters as research, clearance and so forth. That is a very different issue from accepting, as any kind of principle, that stockpiles should not now be eliminated. I gave a figure on current stockpiles and it is important they are eliminated.
We must pay tribute to the different dimensions of the achievement of this convention. I have rightly given credit to the Government for this, as well as the professional diplomatic corps. The people I have particularly in mind are very important and do not lose faith in language and text when the issue is almost slipping away. If there is a history of the conflict in Northern Ireland, it is the manner in which the process was kept going by those who worked on text when those at the top had reached an impasse. It is perhaps the case with the Middle East conflict that if a secretariat had been provided to the Quartet process with regard to Israel and Palestine, it would have provided many opportunities for a principle of continuity after the United States had lost interest or come in or out of its relationship to the conflict. It is still worth the consideration.
We are at a very important time in our history in Europe and internationally. We are faced with the challenge of crafting an entirely new version of economy internationally which will take account of human need and be built on the principle of sustainability. It may encounter a further principle of inter-generational justice. This will require confronting the destructive misuse of resources, human and physical, financial and intellectual.
Beyond this convention — a real achievement I hope we will be able to fine tune and endorse — we must take it as an instrument, confront the non-signatories and drive on towards building a different way of relating to each other. In turn we will feed all this into the United Nations mechanism, which is the only international institution we have. It is pointless to criticise it and it is much more important to make it work.
I commend the Minister on bringing forward this legislation, which must be passed so we can be party to the convention that will be ratified and signed in Oslo on 3 December. I welcome the cross-party support for it and the work done by this Minister, the Department and the Government.
Cluster munitions have inflicted unacceptable harm on civilian populations and many countries have seen the deadly legacy from cluster submunitions failing to detonate. We have all seen images on television of young children in particular who have been affected by these deadly munitions.
Civilians are killed and injured by cluster bombs exploding years after their use in war; people are still being killed and maimed by such ordnance. Tragic loss of life and terrible injuries from this are evident across the world and our televisions bring home to us these particularly terrible injuries. Unexploded cluster munitions also present a significant obstacle to post-conflict communities seeking to rebuild their lives. Economic reconstruction and social recovery cannot take place until explosive ordnance is cleared and destroyed.
Such a task of clearance is a daunting challenge. I saw at first hand the work of the Irish Defence Forces in this regard when I visited the Lebanon. Those personnel are to be commended on their technical and professional skills in clearing areas of unexploded ordnance.
It is time for us to deal with the cause of the problem as the legacy of unexploded cluster munitions endangers civilian lives in the same way as landmines, and the problem must be dealt with similarly. The Irish Defence Forces have a clear international reputation in the work it does in this regard. However, we continually see First World countries developing and specialising in the production of these bombs. It is unfortunate we cannot do more in that regard but this is a step in the right direction, for which I commend the Minister.
On 30 May this year, 107 states participated in the Dublin conference on cluster munitions and agreed to adopt the text of a new convention. By doing so, the participating states fulfilled the commitment made in the Oslo declaration in February 2007 to conclude by 2008 a legally binding international instrument prohibiting the use and stockpiling of cluster munitions that caused unacceptable harm to civilians, secure adequate provision of care and rehabilitation to survivors and clearance of contaminated areas.
The conference was well attended and I heard the Minister, in his opening remarks, speak about countries such as South Africa and Japan, which were not at the forefront but participated in the conference. The Department of Foreign Affairs took a very active and hands-on role in the process, for which it should be commended.
The new convention will be opened for signature at a signing conference in Oslo on 3 December. All states wishing to join may attend this ceremony and I am glad to hear Ireland will be there to sign up on that date. Those which do not sign up on 3 December in Oslo can do so at a later stage at the United Nations headquarters in New York. The new convention prohibits all use, stockpiling, production and transfer of cluster munitions. Separate articles in the convention concern assistance to victims, clearance of contaminated areas and the destruction of stockpiles.
This legislation will confirm this country's support for all efforts this year to conclude the international instrument prohibiting cluster munitions that cause unacceptable harm to civilians. We need a legally binding international instrument that prohibits the use, development, production, stockpiling and transfer of cluster munitions that cause unacceptable harm to civilians. The destruction of current stockpiles is also required, and I am led to believe tens of thousands of tonnes of those munitions are stockpiled in various countries. The instrument also provides for clearance, risk reduction and other risk mitigation activities, as well as actions for victim assistance, co-operation, compliance and transparency measures.
Over the past 50 years the use of cluster munitions has shown us the devastating and horrendous impact of such weapons. Human rights, humanitarian and development impacts of cluster munitions are still present today.
The events in 2006 reminded one of this tragedy, when Israel deployed thousands of tonnes of cluster munitions in Lebanon. Such munitions will still be present in 20, 30 and 40 years' time. The unfortunate point is that children in particular tend to be the victims of such unexploded ordnance. Children, by their nature, are inquisitive and will play in areas that less physically nimble adults are unable to access. Moreover, their inquisitive nature means that when children see something, they pick it up with unfortunate results. A case from Laos was reported in the newspaper recently, in which 14 children came across an unexploded bomb. I believe four were killed and the rest were badly injured.
The effects on children have been recorded and the United Nations is doing much work in this respect. For example, two thirds of cluster munitions casualties in Kosovo were 19 years of age or younger. The average age of casualties in Afghanistan was between seven and 14. In Vietnam, which was littered with cluster munitions for more than 30 years, data on recent casualties also show a scary story in which children made up 62% of cluster munitions casualties, compared to 49% of landmine and other ordnance casualties.
The need for risk reduction education and for the rights of all survivors to medical care, rehabilitation services, psychological support and social and economic inclusion must be recognised. For children, this means making schools accessible, training teachers to work with children with disabilities and ensuring the support provided is lifelong. It also means being attentive to the social, economic and psychological needs of children when their parents fall victim to cluster munitions. The commitment by states, civil society and international organisations to make progress in disarmament, arms control and non-proliferation, through new and creative forms of diplomacy, is growing. Many states and millions of people globally recognise that our prospects for a peaceful and prosperous future are, to a large extent, dependent on our ability to prohibit or control the development, use, stockpiling and transfer of nuclear, biological, chemical and conventional weapons.
Recently, the UN Secretary General stated he was deeply troubled by the lack of progress on global disarmament and all Members would agree. He called on member states of the UN to improve global security by breaking the stalemate on disarmament that threatens other key objectives of the UN charter. A treaty prohibiting cluster munitions is among the initiatives that will result in greater global security. The convention also should address the key concerns of the inherent inaccuracy and frequent malfunctioning of cluster munitions, which makes them particularly indiscriminate, both at the time of their use and long after the conflict has ended.
I commend the Minister and wish this legislation a speedy passage in order that Ireland will be able to be a signatory to the convention in Oslo on 3 December.
I also congratulate the Minister for Foreign Affairs on the introduction today of the Cluster Munitions and Anti-Personnel Mines Bill to make provision in domestic law for the obligations the State will assume under the Convention on Cluster Munitions, CCM. It is a demonstration of the Minister's commitment that he has facilitated the early publication and enactment of this Bill in order that Ireland will be in a position to sign and ratify the convention in Oslo in December. It was a great honour for Ireland to host the diplomatic conference in Dublin that adopted the CCM in 2008. It brought the need for immediate action to everyone's consciousness.
The conference was attended by 130 states and a large number of international intergovernmental and non-governmental organisations, including many Irish NGOs. The successful conclusion of negotiations on the CCM under Irish chairmanship represents one of the most significant contributions to the development of international humanitarian law in recent years and constitutes a major achievement in Irish foreign policy. All those involved in the Department of Foreign Affairs, our embassies and, not least, the Minister are to be congratulated on this achievement.
The heart of the convention is an immediate and unconditional ban on all cluster munitions, which cause unacceptable harm to civilians. Each state party undertakes never in any circumstances to use, develop, produce, acquire, stockpile, retain or transfer cluster munitions, or to assist another party in so doing. By adopting a wide and encompassing definition, the convention effectively prohibits all cluster munitions that have ever been used in armed conflict. It also was a very important achievement that the convention provides for no transition periods during which the cluster weapons outlawed could still be used. In addition, states that sign up to the convention will undertake to ensure the destruction of all their cluster munitions within eight years, with short extensions possible in case of difficulty. Areas containing cluster munition remnants must be cleared within ten years. The Government also is pleased that the language in the new convention on victim rights and assistance is the most advanced on these issues ever included in an international instrument.
As the Minister noted, among the first uses of cluster munitions was an attack on Grimsby during the Second World War, in which many civilians were killed and injured by munitions that had not exploded upon impact. The weapon subsequently formed part of NATO's arsenal during the Cold War. Cluster munitions were used on an enormous scale during the Vietnam War and Laos, which was not even a declared participant in the war, became the most affected country in the world. The high failure rate, large numbers of sub-munitions and extremely wide strike pattern mean that even a single cluster munitions strike in or near an agricultural area can pose a significant long-term socio-economic and physical threat to the population. The unexploded bombs continue to cause civilian casualties, restrict access to land and impede social and economic development in such countries.
The 2006 Lebanon war offers a significant example of the destruction and devastation the widespread use of cluster munitions can cause. Approximately 4 million sub-munitions were fired into south Lebanon by Israel. This left approximately 1 million unexploded individual sub-munitions in the area. The areas contaminated included agricultural land, as well as water and power infrastructure. Most recently, it has been reported that both sides in the Russian-Georgian conflict engaged in the use of cluster munitions and this has been condemned in the Council of Europe.
Ireland is determined that the prohibition on cluster munitions contained in the convention should become established as a new norm of international humanitarian law. The hope is that even states which do not become party to the new convention immediately nonetheless will be inhibited from using cluster munitions by the stigmatisation effect of widespread adherence by others. This has already happened successfully in respect of the anti-personnel mine ban convention and it is hoped the Convention on Cluster Munitions will have a similar effect.
Ireland was among the 46 states, including some cluster munition users and cluster munitions producers, such as France, Germany and the United Kingdom, which committed themselves in Oslo in February 2007 to complete an international treaty by the end of 2008 to prohibit the use, production, transfer and stockpiling of cluster munitions that cause unacceptable harm to civilians and to establish a framework for co-operation and assistance that ensures adequate provision of care and rehabilitation to survivors and their communities, clearance of contaminated areas, risk education and destruction of stockpiles of prohibited cluster munitions. The Oslo process, as it became known, was driven forward by a core group of seven like-minded countries. I am pleased Ireland was to the fore in that respect, in conjunction with Norway, Austria, the Holy See, Mexico, New Zealand, and Peru, who worked closely with the Cluster Munitions Coalition, NGOs, and international organisations such as the UN and the International Committee of the Red Cross. From the outset there was a strong humanitarian focus to ensure any agreement reached would adequately address the numerous relief and development issues that are left in the wake of the use of cluster munitions.
Momentum for the Oslo process continued to grow exponentially and by the time of the Dublin conference more than 100 countries had joined. Following two weeks of intense work the diplomatic conference adopted, by consensus of all participating states, the text of the Convention on Cluster Munitions. There is now a comprehensive prohibition on the use, development, production, acquisition, stockpiling, retention and transfer of cluster munitions, as well as on assisting, encouraging or inducing anyone to engage in behaviour prohibited to a state party under the convention.
The definition of a cluster munition under the convention is comprehensive and will lead to the prohibition of all cluster munitions that cause unacceptable harm to civilians. The convention prohibits all types of cluster munitions that have ever been used in armed conflict. The convention provides that a state party's stockpile of cluster munitions must be destroyed within eight years of the convention's entry into force for that state party. That period may, under exceptional circumstances, be extended. In view of the fact that some states may not have facilities suitable for destroying stockpiled cluster munitions, the transfer of cluster munitions to another state party for the purpose of destruction is permitted. A small number of cluster munitions may also be retained for training purposes under very strict rules.
The provisions of the convention on victim assistance have been acknowledged as setting a new benchmark in this area and the Government will work to integrate this aspect into its funding and co-operation activities. As Deputy Nolan indicated, Ireland is fully committed to the provision of support for victim assistance, clearance of areas contaminated by unexploded remnants of war, destruction of stockpiles, risk education and support for the rehabilitation and socio-economic integration of survivors. I am delighted we have offered substantial support over the years to landmine clearance.
Ireland's efforts on cluster munitions did not end with the successful completion of the Dublin conference. In the run up to the convention's signature in Oslo, much work has been carried out to encourage all governments to sign the convention and to promote awareness of the treaty. Three regional conferences have been held in Sofia, Kampala and Laos, with two more to be held in Lebanon and Ecuador, to encourage states to attend the ceremony in Oslo. Ireland, as one of the core group, has been highly active at the conferences, presenting papers and lobbying governments. The reaction has been very positive and international momentum for signature in Oslo continues to grow. It is one of the proud achievements of the Irish foreign service that we have been playing such an important role in this development. I am delighted to support the introduction of the legislation, which is a significant landmark in Ireland's foreign policy.
The Bill is one of the most important to come before the House for some time. It deals with two of the most notorious weapons used in the 20th century, namely, cluster munitions and landmines. Other weapons may have cost more lives in wars, but few have such a long-term impact. Landmines and cluster munitions kill people, usually children, for decades after a war has ended.
I welcome the Bill because of what it proposes, but that is not to say it does not have flaws. I concur with my colleague, Deputy Timmins, in regretting the omission by the Government of a provision to prohibit the investment by State bodies in any producer of cluster munitions or anti-personnel mines. I understand the Minister indicated an amendment will be made to this effect on Committee Stage. I hope that will be the case. It is important that this country would have no association of any form with any body, agency or country that is any way involved with producing elements of cluster munitions no matter how difficult that might be for some companies. Fine Gael believes that is a major and serious omission and we will propose an amendment to rectify it.
Cluster munitions are weapons deployed from the air by aircraft, including fighters, bombers and helicopters. In mid-air the weapon opens, scattering hundreds of smaller sub-munitions, known as bomblets, many the size of a coke can, to the ground. Other cluster munitions can be launched by being shot out of artillery, rockets, and missile systems on the ground. Whatever the means by which they are launched, the effect is the same — a large area the size of a football pitch is covered by mines, where they sit — often unexploded — for days, weeks, months, often years, long after a war has ended, until someone comes in contact with them. It may be the case that a little child finds a coloured object on the ground and picks it up to play with it, or it can come into contact with a farm implement, or it may be triggered by some object hitting off it. Whatever the trigger, the results are the same — a massive explosion that can seriously maim or kill. Often those who die are the lucky ones as those who are maimed can suffer horrifying injuries that scar them for life, leaving them without limbs and with horrific wounds. Any single fragment of a bomblet can rupture the spleen or cause the intestines to explode.
We have all seen on television various depictions of people who have been affected. It is something one would be better off not to see. It is not just the horror of the injuries that shock, but also the fact that those who are injured add to the injustice. Handicap International has said:
"The majority of victims are poor, uneducated males at work representing 76.8% of total confirmed casualties. Many of those are boys under the age of 18. In South Lebanon, nearly 90% of land used for farming and shepherding is contaminated with unexploded cluster submunitions." [It further observed] "98% of cluster sub-munitions casualties are civilians killed and injured while returning home in the aftermath of conflict or while going about their daily tasks to survive."
In Kosovo, 53% of casualties occurred in the two months after the end of the conflict. Most of the victims who were maimed or killed were boys aged between five and 15. Researchers for Human Rights Watch stated that in "dozens of towns and villages [in the Lebanon], Israel used cluster munitions containing sub-munitions with high failure rates. These left behind homes, gardens, fields, and public spaces — including a hospital — littered with hundreds of thousands and possibility a million unexploded submunitions" which could "endanger civilians for months or years to come".
Not alone is it important to ban cluster munitions but major operations should be put in place in areas such as the Lebanon to sweep them clean of cluster munitions as soon as possible. We are talking about weapons that kill the young and the innocent and do so long after the war is over, and leave those who survive with horrifying and sickening injuries in extreme pain, at worst, or without limbs, at best, for the rest of their lives. That is all because a handful of countries refuse to stop using those barbaric weapons. I hope the Dublin Convention, in which the Government played an important role, will mark the beginning of the end of the use of cluster munitions.
However, it is not the end. As other Members stated, the United States, Pakistan, Russia, India, China and Israel remain outside the remit of the convention and refuse to abide by it. We must not stop campaigning until all states are forced to abandon their use. I would go so far as to call their use a war crime and some would go so far as to say those who authorise their use should be regarded as war criminals.
I urge the Government to continue to lobby hard to push the issue and to use all fora available to continue the campaign. I hope the new US President will abandon the Bush Administration's refusal to sign up to the treaty banning these sick weapons. Mr. Barack Obama seems to have taken a very strong stance on them and would probably be much more open to banning them than a President of a Republican-led Government.
Anti-personnel mines are also covered by the Bill, which will give legislative force to the treaty signed in Oslo in 1997. There are three types of anti-personnel mines. The first type, the blast mine, is the most common. These are buried no more than a few centimetres deep and are generally triggered by someone stepping on the pressure plate and applying approximately 11 to 35.3 lbs of pressure. These mines are designed to destroy an object in close proximity, such as a person's foot or leg. A blast mine is designed to break the targeted object into fragments, which can cause secondary damage, such as infection and the need for amputation.
The second type, the bounding mine, is usually buried with only a small part of the igniter protruding from the ground. These mines are activated by pressure or a trip-wire. One may hear this type of mine referred to as a "Bouncing Betty". When activated, the igniter sets off a propelling charge, lifting the mine approximately 1 m into the air. The mine then ignites a main charge, causing injury to a person's head and chest, which is quite horrific.
The third type, the fragmentation mine, releases fragments in all directions, or can be arranged to send fragments in one direction. In the latter case, it is called a directional fragmentation mine. It can cause injury up to 200 m away and kill at closer distances. The fragments used in the mines are either metal or glass. Fragmentation mines can be bounding or ground based.
Ireland formally signed the mine ban treaty on 3 December 1997 and is scheduled to sign up to the cluster munitions treaty in December in Oslo. The Cluster Munitions and Anti-Personnel Mines Bill is intended to give the treaties legislative effect.
As we know, Fine Gael proposed its own Cluster Munitions Bill earlier this year. It was voted down on Second Stage, despite urgings from NGOs that it be accepted and amended on Committee Stage to make any changes that would arise on foot of the Dublin Convention.
While I am glad this Bill is before the House, there was no reason whatsoever the Fine Gael Bill could not have been accepted. It would have served as a strong statement of the unanimity of the House on this issue to those visiting Dublin for the convention. Ultimately politics prevailed and the Government, or Minister specifically, did not want to recognise the work Deputy Timmins did in putting together a very comprehensive Bill on cluster munitions.
While I welcome this important Bill, Fine Gael will be proposing amendments to strengthen it in some respects. However, I congratulate the Minister, Deputy Dermot Ahern, and the other Government Members on their work and for being leaders in this field. I congratulate them on doing such a good job at the convention held in Croke Park some months ago. It certainly created a very good and positive impression of this country.
In his speech, the Minister referred to the fact that provision was made in the Bill to enable the Defence Forces to participate in UN-mandated peacekeeping forces with the state or states that may not be party to the convention on cluster munitions in accordance with Article 21 thereof. This is the so-called "interoperability" provision of the convention, which was the most difficult issue to resolve in the negotiations at Croke Park. It is important that those involved in Irish missions emphasise at all times that they will not be party to the use of cluster munitions of any form in any operations in which they are involved in conjunction with countries that have not yet signed up to the agreement. All the EUFOR countries are signed up to the convention so this does not apply to them. The section of the Bill in this regard should be strengthened.
I welcome the Bill, which is very important. We are playing our role in the House and doing our job. I compliment Deputy Timmins who, as Opposition spokesperson, showed what can be achieved in the legislation he introduced. I am glad the Government has more or less accepted the essence of what he said. Together we can produce very good legislation that will be very effective internationally.
It is important that we complete Second Stage of this Bill tonight to send a signal that there is all-party unity on these issues. Committee and Report Stages should be completed as quickly as possible so Ireland can, once again, send out a message to other countries that it is willing to take a stand and be to the forefront in addressing these issues.
Ba mhaith liom buíochas a thabhairt as an deis labhairt anocht ar an gceist ríthábhachtach seo ceist An Bille um Chnuas-Mhuinisin 2008. Measaim go bhfuil sé tábhachtach go dtugaimid tacaíocht don Bhille seo. Ba mhaith liom comhghairdeas a ghabháil leis an tAire Martin agus an tAire Ahern as an obair a dhéan siad go dtí seo ar an mBille seo agus daoine eile atá tar éis cuidiú leis an mBille seo a chur chun cinn agus a dhéanamh cinnte de go bhfuil convention againn agus go bhfuilimid ag síniú an convention sin agus go bhfuilimid ag moladh do thíortha eile in san domhain go síníodh siad san an convention ach ní hamháin sin ach go ndéanann beart de réir an gníomh atá leagtha síos ansin sa deireadh thiar go mbeidh muid mar shochaí agus mar dhomhain tar éis fáil réidh leis na cnús ionseain seo atá luaite in san Bille. An rud atá I gceist in san Bille ná go bhfuilimid ag cur leis an convention a bhí ann roimhe seo land mines agus ag an am sin bhí Éire chun tosaigh arís. Bhí sé ríthábhachtach go raibh an chomhdháil i bpáirc an crócaigh níos luaithe i mbliana agus measaim gur léir ón méid atá ós ár gcomhair inniu gur obair mhaith a déanadh ag an gcomhdháil sin. Ní raibh mé in ann a bheith ann agus féachaint ar an obair a bhí ar siúl acu. Tá an Teachta Deenihan tar éis leagan amach dúinn cheana féin go díreach cad tá i gceist san sórt buama seo. Buamaí gránna amach is amach iad más féidir le haon bhuama gan bheith gránna sa deireadh thiar an rud atá i gceist anseo ná na céadta buamaí beaga a chaitheamh thar ceantar beag gan iad a bheith dírithe ar aon duine nó aon arm ach go háirithe agus an rud atá i gceist ná déanamh cinnte go maraítear an méid is mó saighdiúirí nó daoine ionraic nó fiú go ndéanfaí iad a ghortú. Is cuimhin liomsa léamh tamaill de bhlianta ó shin faoi dhuine a bhí ag déanamh straitéis maidir le cogaíocht i Vietnam agus bhí siad san ag caint faoi, go raibh sé beagnach níos fearr dóibh dá ngortófaí saighdiúir Meiriceánach ná go maireofaí é toisc gur cheangal sé sin suas triúr nó ceathrar saighdiúr eile má tá duine gortaithe go dona. Measaim gurb é sin roinnt den fáth go bhfuil na stáit timpeall an domhain fós ag úsáid na sórt seo buamaí.
Tá an Teachta Deenihan tar éis leagan amach dúinn cheana féin go díreach cad tá i gceist in san sórt buama seo. Buamaí gránna amach is amach iad, más féidir le haon bhuama gan bheith gránna. Sa deireadh thiar an rud atá i gceist anseo ná, na céadta buamaí beaga a chaitheamh thar ceantar beag gan iad a bheith dírithe ar aon duine nó aon arm, ach go háirithe, agus an rud atá i gceist ná déanamh cinnte go maraítear an méid is mó saighdiúirí nó daoine ionraic nó fiú go ndéanfaí iad a ghortú.
Tuigeann siad gur féidir daoine a mharú ach go minic go bhfuil sé níos measa do namhaid, má tá a lán saighdiúirí nó daoine ionraic gortaithe agus go mbíonn ar an stát casadh le déanamh cinnte go bhfuil cóir leigheas le fáil acu sin agus go bhfuil na saighdiúirí nó an sórt tacaíocht sa chúlra gafa ag tabhairt aire do dhaoine atá gortaithe tar éis cos nó lámh nó géag éigin a chailliúint nó atá tar éis a bheith dallaithe ag a leithéid de bhuamaí. An rud is measa faoi seo ná, ní nuair atá an cogadh thart, má tá cogadh ann in aon chor, is ina dhiaidh sin a bhíonn an cuid is mó de na daoine gortaithe ag an sórt seo buama páistí ach go háirithe. Nuair a chaitear na buamaí seo ón aer de ghnáth scaipeann siad i ngach áit ní dhéantar aon iarracht déanamh cinnte go bhfuil gach uile ceann tar éis pléascadh, ní dhéantar aon iarracht déanamh cinnte nach bhfuil siad i gceantair cosúil le scoileanna nó páirceanna peile nó ar thaobh na sléibhte áit áta daoine ag tabhairt aire do chaoirigh nó a leithéid nó istigh i Jungles nó i gceantair atá siad ag tabhairt aire do bheithígh nó ag cur na barraí. An rud a tharlaíonn ná go minic bíonn daoine ag tabhairt aire do chaoirigh nó ag imirt peile nó a leithéid agus sin an uair a ghortaítear na páistí agus sin an áit a chóir go mbádh muid ag díriú air.
Tá freagracht áirithe acu siúd atá ag úsáid seo glanadh suas ina dhiaidh agus fiú siúd atá tar éis an coinbhinsiún a shíniú ba chóir go mbeadh dualgas orthu dul ar ais chuig na ceantair fiú más fiche nó tríocha bliain ó shin dul ar ais ansin agus déanamh cinnte de go bhfuil gach uile ceann de na bomblets seo glanta ón ceantar. Nach mbeidh muid ag féachaint ar pháistí beaga le cos amháin nó lámh amháin toisc gur chuaigh siad amach chun imirt deich, fiche bliain ina dhiaidh cogadh a bheith thart nó fiú dhá nó trí mhí. Ceann de na príomh dualgais nuair atá síocháin idir thortha ná go mbeadh orthu déileáil leis na muinisin atá thart agus gur gá dóibh dul isteach ins na páirceanna ach go háirithe ionas go mbeadh feirmeoirí in ann barraí a chur go mbeadh an talamh sin glanta de haon saghas stuif atá curtha san talamh nó atá tar éis titim isteach sa talamh.
Measaim go bhfuil an ceart ag an Teachta Deenihan nuair a bhí sé ag caint faoi alt 21 áit a luann sé comhoibriú míleata ag tíortha dream amháin atá tar éis an coinbhinsiún a shíniú ag dream eile nach bhfuil gur cóir féachaint arís ar sin agus measaim fhéin agus i mo thuairim fhéin ba chóir go mbeidh muid ag déanamh cinnte de nach bhfuil saighdiúirí Éireannacha ag obair nó ar obráidithe thar lear áiteanna atá na tíortha sin fós gafa le cluster munitions. Ní cóir go mbeadh baint ar bith againn le haon arm atá fós stocanna acu de leithéid de arm lóin nó atá tar éis é a úsáid le tamall agus nach bhfuil tar éis an choinbhinsiún seo a shíniú. Caithfimid a déanamh cinnte de chomh maith ní hamháin go síníonn muid é seo ach go ndéanfaimid níos mó agus is féidir le tír beag cosúil linne méid áirithe a dhéanamh. Dhéan muid an coinbhinsiún a shíniú tá muid tar éis an Bille seo a chur ós ár gcomhair tá méid áirithe eile gur féidir linn a dhéanamh agus in san méid sin measaim gur féidir linne an ceist a ardú gach uair atá muid ag déanamh ceangal trádála le tíortha eile go ndéanfaimid é mar ceann de na coinníollacha nuair atá muid ag déanamh na ceangail trádála sin go mbeadh mar choinníoll go bhfaigheann siad réidh leis an armlóin seo agus go gcuireann siad ar lea-taobh aon tógáil dá leithéid atá ar bun nó aon déantúsaíocht dá leithéid atá ar bun in san tír sin faoi láthair. Measaim go gcaithfimid brú a chur ar leithéidí na Stáit Aontaithe Meiriceá leithéidí Shasana, an Fhrainc agus sin gur gá dóibhsan, i bhfad Éireann níos mó a dhéanamh ná díreach an coinbhinsiún a shíniú agus déileáil leis an stoc atá acu fhéin. Toisc gur dhéan siad an stoc a thógaint sa chéad dul síos dhéan siad rás armlóin idir iad fhéin agus a naimhde a chothú thar na blianta agus is de thairbhe sin go bhfuil na stoic seo fós ann.
Is fiú féachaint go díreach ar cad tá i gceist againn, tá muid ag caint faoi tamall de bhlianta go raibh 260 milliún anti-personal mines ag 131 Stát. Tá fhios agam ó shin go bhfuil ísliú mór agus ísliú suntasach tagtha ar an líon den sórt buama seo den sórt mianaigh seo ach fós tá na céadta milliún de mianaigh talamh ag tíortha timpeall an domhain agus caithfidh na Stáit Aontaithe iad siúd ach go háirithe níos mó a dhéanamh chun fáil réidh leo agus impí ar na Stáit eile fáil réidh leo. Níl sé maith go leor díreach an coinbhinsiún a shíniú agus measaim sin a bhí i gceist in san comhdháil agus sin atá i gceist in san reachtaíocht seo. Reachtaíocht tá súil agam a bheidh á rith tríd na tíortha eile chomh maith céanna. Measaim go bhfuil sé tábhachtach a aithint an obair a dhéan an cluster munitions coalitions pax christi agus amnesty international agus chomh maith a leithéidí trócaire ní hamháin in san tír ach thar lear áit atá roinnt acu sin ag obair le na daoine atá gortaithe in sna tíortha sin agus measaim gur cóir déanamh cinnte go bhfuil an t-airgead ag na heagrais sin chun déanamh cinnte de go bhfuil an obair ag dul chun cinn agus gur féidir cóir leigheas a chur ar na daoine atá á gortú toisc na mianaigh seo timpeall an domhan. Tá figiúir áit éigin in san méid atá ós mo chomhair ag rá cé méid daoine a deirtear a ghortaítear gach uile seachtain, is figiúr dochreidte é sa lá atá inniu ann, nach n-aithnímid an damáiste atá ag tarlú timpeall an domhain toisc cogaí atá thart go minic tamall de bhlianta ina dhiaidh sin. Buachaillí óga is mó a ghortaíodh i abair i Kosova áit a deir siad 53% tar éis an coimhlint, dhá mhí tar éis an choimhlint is cluster mines faoi ndear na ngortaithe agus mar a dúirt buachaillí óga a bhíonn ag imirt timpeall na háite. Chun críochnú ba mhaith liom arís mo thacaíocht a thabhairt do seo. Tá súil agam nuair a théann sé go dtí an Choiste go mbeidh muid in ann deileála leis an gceist atá ardaithe agam agus tá ceisteanna beaga eile ach don chuid is mó tá tacaíocht agam anseo. Sin an figiúr Human Rights Watch estimated that land mines killed or injured 26,000 people every year agus sin an figiúr déanamh cinnte ár gcuid a dhéanamh chun a dhéanamh cinnte de go gcoimeádtar daoine an domhain slán ón sórt seo rud amach anseo. Go raibh maith agat.
Dick Roche (Minister of State with special responsibility for European Affairs, Department of Foreign Affairs; Minister of State, Department of An Taoiseach; Wicklow, Fianna Fail)
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I thank all Deputies who contributed to the Second Stage debate, particularly Deputies Michael D. Higgins and Billy Timmins. I share with all Members of the House a common abhorrence of cluster munitions and anti-personnel mines. These are extraordinary weapons and it is sickening that human ingenuity is used and abused to produce weaponry which causes such mayhem and damage and is wilfully designed to destroy human life. Deputy Ó Snodaigh referred to the residue of these weapons in Vietnam. It is appalling that in Flanders fields, where ploughing took place last week, dangerous weaponry from the First World War remains. I also thank those Deputies who recognised the Government's work in achieving consensus on the Convention on Cluster Munitions in Dublin last May. Irish people can be proud of the work invested in this issue by officials of the Department of Foreign Affairs and members of the Defence Forces.
Achieving a comprehensive prohibition on the use, development, production, acquisition, stockpiling, retention and transfer of cluster munitions was an important objective for the Government and all parties in this House. It has been achieved early in the lifetime of the Government and the Oslo process and Convention on Cluster Munitions exceeded early levels of ambition for what could be done. This success is due to the almost global recognition of the horror of cluster munitions. I echo the sentiments of a number of Deputies when I note with sadness that nations which regard themselves as civilised or advocates of democracy should be involved in the production, distribution and use of these weapons.
As Deputies will be aware, the Convention on Cluster Munitions was adopted by consensus at the conclusion of the Dublin diplomatic conference last May at Croke Park. It will be opened for signature at a ceremony in Oslo on 3 December and will enter into force six months after 30 states have ratified it. The Bill will allow Ireland to sign the convention and ratify it an early date.
The successful conclusion of negotiations under Irish chairmanship is one of the most significant contributions to the development of international humanitarian law in recent years and a major achievement in Irish foreign policy. As the Minister for Foreign Affairs emphasised, the Government and all Members of the Oireachtas share a common ambition to carry forward the excellent work which has already been done by being in a position to both sign and ratify the Convention on Cluster Munitions at the ceremony in Oslo in December. The enactment of the Bill facilitates this ambition and will clearly demonstrate Ireland's commitment to promoting the earliest possible entry into force of the convention.
The heart of the convention is an immediate and unconditional ban on all cluster munitions which cause unacceptable harm to civilians. Each state party undertakes that it will never, in any circumstances, use, develop, produce, acquire, stockpile, retain or transfer cluster munitions or assist another party in so doing. By adopting a wide and encompassing definition, the convention effectively prohibits all cluster munitions that have ever been used in armed conflict. It does not provide for any exceptions in that it bans all weapons which have the effect and characteristics of cluster munitions and cause unacceptable harm to civilians. It is a pity we cannot go a step further and introduce a prohibition on all weaponry which causes harm to human life because it is widely sought.
Dick Roche (Minister of State with special responsibility for European Affairs, Department of Foreign Affairs; Minister of State, Department of An Taoiseach; Wicklow, Fianna Fail)
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In addition to the comprehensive ban contained in the convention, the provisions on clearance and victim assistance are a source of particular satisfaction to us all. These provisions have been acknowledged as having set a new benchmark in international humanitarian law. The Government will work to implement the commitments we have undertaken in the convention in our funding and co-operation activities. Perhaps most important, however, particularly given the graphic evidence of irresponsible use of this weaponry, is the onus the convention places on those who have caused damage to assist in the clearance of cluster munitions and their remnants. They are strongly encouraged to provide as much assistance as possible, including financial and material aid, to the affected country. This provision ensures that countries which engage in the use of these monstrous weapons will no longer be able to walk away from the damage and devastation they have caused. Those who fail to meet this requirement will stand guilty at the bar of human judgment.
Ireland's efforts on cluster munitions have not ended with the successful completion of the Dublin conference at Croke Park. In the run-up to signature in Oslo, much work has been done to encourage as many governments as possible to sign the convention and promote awareness of the treaty. Three regional conferences have been held in Sofia, Kampala and Laos, with more to come, aimed at encouraging states to attend the ceremony in Oslo. Ireland, as one of the core group, has been highly active at these conferences, presenting papers and lobbying governments to sign up to the convention. We also organised a large event in the margins of the UN General Assembly last month to promote the convention. The reaction has been positive and international momentum for signature in Oslo continues to grow.
The Oslo process was successful because of the hard work of Ireland and the other core group members, UN organisations, the International Committee of the Red Cross and numerous NGOs. In particular, the wonderful work of the Cluster Munition Coalition and more than 20 Irish NGOs was central to creating awareness of the issues involved with cluster munitions. I am pleased with the ongoing engagement of Irish NGOs in the process and the invaluable support they have offered to the Department. Implementation of the convention after the signing ceremony will require our continued dedication and co-operation with this diverse group of dedicated actors. A priority for the Government will be to build on and further develop our partnerships to provide the Convention on Cluster Munitions with the support essential for its long-term implementation and success. Ireland and other key actors intend to begin work immediately after the signing ceremony to ensure momentum for the convention is maintained.
Some of the key issues we have started to consider are the lessons we have learned from the implementation of the 1997 Anti-Personnel Mine Ban Treaty and how these could be applied to the Convention on Cluster Munitions and the role civil society can play in monitoring and implementing the convention. We will also work to ensure continued ownership and support among the key actors and to promote ratification and universalisation of the convention.
Ireland will also work to support any actions needed in the run-up to the first meeting of states parties, which must be convened within one year of the entry into force of the convention. Subsequent meetings will be convened by the Secretary General of the United Nations annually until the first review conference due to be held five years after entry into force of the convention. It is our hope that the first meeting of states parties will take place as early as this time next year and we will work hard toward this objective.
I reiterate the absolute priority for Ireland to be in a position to both sign and ratify the convention in Oslo on 3 December. The Government is grateful to all Members and parties in that regard. The early enactment of this Bill facilitates Ireland's continued leadership in an area which is important to us all.
Deputy Timmins raised a question about investing in or financing companies in this area. The Government will table an amendment on this on Committee Stage. Deputy Michael D. Higgins asked a series of questions. I listened to the concerns he expressed about interoperability. The purpose of the relevant sections of the Bill is to ensure that members of an Irish contingent could not be prosecuted for inducing or encouraging the use of cluster munitions contrary to section 6(2) of the Bill where he or she is not knowingly involved in such activity. The Deputy will appreciate that provision. Deputy Higgins asked a very important question about aircraft and ships, something I believe he and I should have a discussion on. I have some ideas, but in the usual way, where the Garda have a reasonable suspicion that a criminal offence is being committed, it has the power to search. I shall cause the other questions to be answered in writing.