ABUSES: ARM SALES TO TURKEY
HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH
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TITLE: 12/28/94 HRW Calls for Cancellation of Cluster Bomb Sale to
December 28, 1994
The Human Rights Watch Arms Project revealed today that the U.S. is considering the sale
of America's latest and most deadly cluster bomb to Turkey. Previously unknown to
the public or Congress, there is a tense debate taking place in the State Department and
Defense Department over whether or not to permit Minnesota-based Alliant Techsystems to
sell 493 CBU-87 cluster bombs to Turkey.
"The State Department should under no circumstance approve the sale of this
weapon, which has such a high potential for misuse, to the government of Turkey, which has
an abominable human rights record," said Stephen Goose, the program director of
the Arms Project. Mr. Goose noted, "We are deeply concerned that Turkey will
use these cluster bombs indiscriminately in its conflict with Kurdish rebels, with
devastating effects on the civilian population."
Turkey's military campaign against the Kurdistan Worker's Party (PKK) has been aimed
largely at the civilian population. The Turkish government has a well-documented record of
contempt for civilian life during military operations and of failure to discriminate
between civilian and military targets, as required by the international laws of war.
Turkish forces have depopulated up to 1,400 villages and hamlets, forcibly evicting
villagers and burning many of their homes. Air attacks are a common feature of the
war, often involving U.S. fighter aircraft and attack helicopters, and sometimes the use
of cluster bombs.
Each CBU-87 can saturate an area the size of a football field with 202 small,
individual bomblets. Each bomblet has three "kill mechanisms": a bomb case
designed to break into approximately 300 fragments that can cause human death or injury up
to 500 feet in all directions, a shaped charge that can penetrate five inches of armor,
and an incendiary ring that can start fires in any combustible environment.
The CBU-87 was used extensively by U.S. air forces in the Gulf war, and caused a great
deal of civilian suffering. Regardless of the intended target, the weapon's high
"dud" rate (failure to explode immediately upon impact) and inaccuracy when
delivered from high altitudes pose grave dangers to civilian populations. It is estimated
that more than 100,000 CBU-87 bomblets that the U.S. dropped during the Gulf war were
duds. Bomblets that do not explode on impact become the equivalent of landmines;
they are armed and will explode when disturbed, whether by an enemy soldier, friendly
soldier or civilian.
On June 21, 1994 the U.S. company Alliant Techsystems signed a contract to provide 493
CBU- 87 Combined Effects Munition units to the Turkish Ministry of Defense. However,
the U.S. State Department has yet to issue the necessary export license to permit
deliveries to go forward. Those who oppose the sale based on Turkey's appalling
human rights record are squared off against those who fear damage to the "strategic
relationship" if the sale is denied. According to administration sources, the
government of Turkey is attaching considerable importance to the sale.
"It would be particularly objectionable to approve the cluster bomb sale at
a time when Turkey's human rights record is deteriorating and its military campaign
against the PKK is escalating," said Mr. Goose. "It would certainly send
the government of Turkey the wrong message if the U.S. criticizes the jailing
of Kurdish members of parliament one day, then permits this arms sale the next
day." Mr. Goose also said, "Instead of helping to resolve the conflict in
Turkey's southeast, the U.S. is risking adding fuel to the fire with the provision of
deadly cluster bombs."
The 28-page report, titled "U.S. Cluster Bombs for Turkey?," also contains an
overview of U.S. arms sales and military aid to Turkey, pointing out that Turkey is
the third largest recipient of U.S. military aid, after Israel and Egypt, with $5.1
billion in grants and loans over the past ten years. In addition, over the past few
years Turkey has received thousands of U.S. tanks, armored personnel carriers, howitzers,
combat aircraft, attack helicopters, machine guns, and ammunition rounds that have been
declared surplus. The U.S. is Turkey's number one arms supplier, providing about
four-fifths of Turkey's arms imports.
The report states that this extensive supply of U.S. weaponry, some of which is used in
Turkey's counterinsurgency campaign, makes the U.S. complicit in the abuses that occur and
undermines the Administration's welcome policy of increased candor and concern about
Turkish human rights abuses.
In addition to denial of the sale of the CBU-87 cluster bombs, the report recommends:
-The U.S. should seek written assurances in all future arms transfer agreements with
Turkey that the arms and equipment will not be used to commit human rights abuses or
violations of the laws of war.
- At the very least, in cases of controversial sales of weapons that have a high
potential for misuse, the U.S. should insist as a condition for approval that the
government of Turkey sign an agreement guaranteeing that the weapons would only be used in
NATO contingencies or with the prior approval of the U.S. government.
-The U.S. should carefully monitor the end use of the lethal equipment that it has
provided to Turkey. End use monitoring should be a consistent and highly visible
element of U.S. military assistance to Turkey in the future.