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  • A disarmed Moroccan cluster bomb in Western Sahara. Cluster munitions have been criticized by human rights groups for inflicting high civilian casualties. (Photo: Ryan Mallett-Outtrim/THKW)

    A disarmed Moroccan cluster bomb in Western Sahara. Cluster munitions have been criticized by human rights groups for inflicting high civilian casualties. (Photo: Ryan Mallett-Outtrim/THKW) | Photo: Ryan Mallett-Outtrim/THKW

Investment in cluster munitions has doubled in the past year, according to a monitoring group which names and shames investors who support these illegal weapons.

Some of the biggest names in finance have been accused of funding cluster bomb manufacturers, in a report released Thursday by the PAX monitoring group.

U.S. financial giant JP Morgan Chase, Singapore's Temasek Holdings and the China Everbright Group are just three big names listed in PAX's “Hall of Shame” for providing loans and other financial services to producers of cluster munitions.

One of the report's authors Suzanne Oosterwijk said, “It is an absolute scandal that so-called leading banks and asset managers are investing billions into companies that produce weapons which are banned under international law.”

“This year alone, civilians in Syria and eastern Ukraine were killed and maimed by these weapons,” Oosterwijk stated.

A total of 151 financial institutions were named and shamed, including Citgroup, Bank of America, Deutsche Bank, Allianz, Bank of China, Credit Suisse and Goldman Sachs. Just over half the Hall of Shame were U.S. based companies.

“We call on these companies to stop funding the indiscriminate killing of civilians by ending these investments,” Oosterwijk said.

PAX also published a list of financial institutions in said are leading the movement to divest from cluster munitions.

In the report’s “Hall of Fame,” the Netherlands’ ASN Bank and Triodos, Italy's Banca Etica and France's La Financiere Responsable were recognized for making some of the best efforts to ensure their financial services don't benefit cluster munition manufacturers.

As the report conceded, it can be difficult for banks to know whether their clients are linked to the manufacture of the bombs.

The institutions applauded in the Hall of Fame were largely recognized for black listing manufactures, conducting case by case investigations into clients suspected of links to the cluster munitions industry, or taking other steps aimed at rooting out bomb makers.

What are Cluster Bombs?

Cluster munitions are explosive devices packed with smaller bomblets, which scatter when the main device is detonated. The weapons were first developed during the second world war to kill infantry en masse, and have been used in almost every major war since, despite widespread criticism from human rights groups.

According to PAX, “Cluster munitions are incapable of distinguishing civilians from military targets. This makes cluster munitions indiscriminate weapons, conflicting with international humanitarian law.”

The bomblets are often scattered over wide areas by aerial bombardment, but many don't explode when they hit the ground. Bomblets can remain hidden in terrain for decades before exploding.

In the disputed African territory Western Sahara, bomblets deployed by Moroccan forces in the 1970s and 1980s still kill and maim civilians.

Clearing areas riddled with cluster bombs can be close to impossible.

Today, cluster munitions are banned under the 2008 Convention on Cluster Munitions, which has been signed by 115 countries.

However, that hasn't stopped some of the most powerful countries in the world using the explosives.

The United States is one of the largest producers and users of the weapons.

U.S.-led forces are estimated to have used more than 1000 cluster bombs in Afghanistan in the past decade, riddling bombed areas with somewhere between 200,000 and 300,000 bomblets.

Around 200 civilians were killed by cluster munitions during the 2003 invasion of Iraq, according to the Iraq Body Count, though the Pentagon disputes this.

“This year alone, civilians in Syria and eastern Ukraine were killed and maimed by these weapons,” Oosterwijk warned.

According to Amy Little from the Campaign Manager of the international Cluster Munition Coalition (CMC),

“Ninety-four percent of recorded cluster munition victims are civilians and 40 percent are children … Which begs the question why any financial institution would choose to fund producers of this banned weapon?” She asked.

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