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Turks: Arms Sales


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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.


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