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NGO: Germany still financing cluster bombs, despite pledge

Cluster munitions and anti-personnel mines are banned by international treaties. But German banks are still investing in the manufacturers of these products, despite a commitment to stop.

Branislav Kapetanovic did not own any Deutsche Bank shares. Nevertheless, he was in attendance when the largest German financial institution held its shareholders meeting last May.

For many years, the 46-year-old Serb worked as a trained mine clearance officer, defusing cluster bombs of the type BLU 97, until an accident left him without arms and legs. At the invitation of the Umbrella Association of Critical Shareholders, Kapetanovic came to the podium in Frankfurt Festhalle in his wheelchair. He told shareholders how his body was mutilated in an explosion of a weapon he himself wanted to render harmless.

"I'm glad I can speak to you here today, because the Deutsche Bank is a major financier of cluster munitions worldwide," he told a shocked audience.

Raising awareness

Branislav Kapetanovic

Kapetanovic was injured clearing bombs in Yugoslavia

Ever since the Oslo Convention on Cluster Munitions (CCM) came into force on August 1, 2010, 68 states have pledged to outlaw cluster bombs and anti-personnel mines - including Germany. Another 44 nations are committed to the spirit of the agreement, but have not yet legally committed themselves.

According to estimates by Handicap International, cluster munitions have killed up to 100,000 people worldwide, almost all of them civilians. Hundreds of explosive sub-munitions can lie around for decades after being ejected by a cluster bomb.

These include duds that can explode at the slightest touch, as was the case with Kapetanovic when he attempted to clear a bomb from the 1999 war in Yugoslavia.

"The bomb which wounded me was manufactured by Alliant Techsystems," said Kapetanovic. "This company is a Deutsche Bank customer."

Research by the German environmental lobby group Urgewald and the EU-funded campaign Facing Finance has revealed that in early 2011, the manufacturers of cluster munitions received equity investments, loans and credits from German banks amounting to approximately 1.3 billion euros ($1.7 billion).

Facing Finance is trying to raise awareness among investors, to get them to stop investing in companies that are involved in human rights violations, environmental destruction and corruption.

That's also the case with German financial institutions, which continue to invest directly or indirectly in cluster munitions manufacturers. In 2010, it was revealed that in some institutions, even the state-sponsored retirement savings plan, the so-called Riester pension, contained papers by manufacturers of these illegal weapons. These, according to Facing Finance, included the military giants General Dynamics, Lockheed Martin, Alliant Techsystems, Textron, Raytheon and L-3 Communications.

a protest against banks funding cluster bombs

NGOs and protest groups have called for an end to bank financing for cluster bombs and anti-personnel mines

A particularly high number of shares, direct and indirect credits to cluster munitions manufacturers, was uncovered in the books of the Deutsche Bank Group. At last year's shareholders meeting, CEO Josef Ackermann promised improvements.

Six months later, on November 9, the company's management announced that Deutsche Bank would stop all business contacts with such manufacturers. On February 2, Ackermann told German television that Deutsche Bank had opted out of financing cluster bomb manufacturers.

New discoveries

The Facing Finance campaign, however, published a follow-up study on March 21 in Berlin, which seemed to suggest otherwise.

According to the study, German financial institutions have actually increased their investments in cluster munitions manufacturers to about 1.6 billion euros. The results were surprising, because the study also showed that some of Germany's financial institutions verifiably committed themselves to reducing their investments.

Barbara Happe of the environmental lobby group Urgewald sees possible reasons for that in the sustained engagement by Deutsche Bank. Nearly 90 percent of the current investments into manufacturers of cluster munitions could be traced back to the bank.

"These figures are a damning indictment of Deutsche Bank and proof that their own self-commitment is not worth the paper on which it was written," said Happe. Facing Finance activists point out that one day after Ackermann's television interview, the Deutsche Bank Group granted a loan to American defense contractor L-3 Communications.

"Deutsche Bank has broken its promise," said Thomas Kuechenmeister of Facing Finance.

A spokesman for Deutsche Bank told DW, however, that the financial institution fully assumes its responsibilities and stands by its public promises.

Stopping the influx of money

Agnieszka Brugger

Brugger says a ban on investment is necessary

For Agnieszka Brugger, a German Green party parliamentarian and member of the Defense Committee, it's high time for a statutory ban on investment in anti-personnel mines and cluster munitions.

"The [international cluster bomb] convention prohibits the use, storage, production, development and trade of antipersonnel mines and cluster bombs," she said. "Consequently, investments into such weapons should also not be taking place."

According to Facing Finance, public pressure over the past year has led major German financial institutions, including Commerzbank, Unicreditgroup / HypoVereinsbank and several regional banks, to act. But what has been achieved is not nearly enough, says Brugger. "In random samples, we found that only a single-digit percentage of financial institutions have committed themselves," she said.

On March 22, the opposition Social Democrats, Left and Green parties submitted a bill to the Bundestag which would legally regulate an investment ban. They hope this will create more transparency - and, even more importantly, sanction tools against non-cooperating financial institutions.

Arms conglomerates are especially in focus. If the bill is approved, they will be entirely excluded from the public procurement process, even if antipersonnel mines and cluster munitions make up only a small portion of their product range. "We want to prevent cluster munitions from being produced, especially by such conglomerates," said Inge Höger of the Left party.

Bundeswehr soldiers in Afghanistan

Schnurr says a ban could endanger German military missions

Bundeswehr at risk?

For the time being, however, this area will not be regulated as the conservative government parties do not approve of the measures. Christoph Schnurr, a parliamentarian from the pro-business FDP party and member of the Armed Services Committee, does not think highly of general investment bans.

"Are we talking only about companies which produce cluster munitions, or are we talking about companies that produce components or perhaps even the know-how and technology for delivering cluster munitions?," Schnurr asked. "Where do we draw the line?"

According to Schnurr, the current proposal could even endanger some legitimate military needs. "That would mean that we could no longer employ large companies to procure military equipment that we need, for example in our Afghanistan mission," he said. Furthermore, he believes that the voluntary self-commitment of many financial institutions has worked and that there is no need for a new law.

Many members of the FDP's conservative coalition partners, the Christian Democrats and its Bavarian sister party the Christian Social Union, would not agree. They, too, would like to see more regulation in this area but their fear of a new coalition tiff prevails. As a result, there is very little to be expected from the Bundestag at the moment.

Kapetanovic is saddened by this inaction, especially when he thinks back to his appearance in Frankfurt a year ago. Despite his handicap, he continues to campaign against cluster bombs. He has not given up hope.

"I don't give up that easily," he said.

Author: Richard Fuchs / tt
Editor: Martin Kuebler

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