"No conventional weapon poses
greater danger to civilians today than cluster munitions," said Steve Goose,
director of the Arms Division of Human Rights Watch. "Governments should act
with an urgency that matches this threat and conclude a new treaty restricting
cluster munitions by next year."
In November 2006, the Norwegian government announced that it would facilitate a process aimed at concluding a new international treaty to prohibit cluster munitions that have unacceptable humanitarian consequences. The
Nongovernmental organizations - led by the Cluster Munition Coalition that Human Rights Watch helped found in 2003 and now co-chairs - are calling for governments to commit to concluding a new treaty by 2008, and to develop an action plan for getting there. The Cluster Munition Coalition and Norwegian People's Aid are hosting a Civil Society Forum on Cluster Munitions in
In recent months, some three dozen countries have formally declared their support for a new treaty on cluster munitions, as have the International Committee of the Red Cross and many United Nations agencies. There are parliamentary initiatives to regulate or prohibit cluster munitions in about a dozen countries, including the
"A new treaty on cluster munitions is urgently needed to protect civilians both during and after armed conflict," said Goose. "Cluster munitions pose a double threat. If they don't kill or injure you during an indiscriminate attack, they can still get you later with their landmine effect."
Cluster munitions endanger civilians because each bomb, rocket or shell spreads hundreds of submunitions over a broad area, virtually guaranteeing civilian casualties when fired into populated areas. Also, cluster munitions leave a large number of unexploded submunitions, or "duds," that effectively become landmines, killing or maiming people who come into contact with them long after the conflict has ended.
A new treaty could stave off a potential humanitarian disaster even worse than the global landmine crisis. There are billions of submunitions in the arsenals of more than 70 countries. If those weapons get used, they will claim untold numbers of civilian casualties during conflict, and leave behind tens of millions - or even hundreds of millions - of duds as deadly as antipersonnel mines.
Some states, including the
Human Rights Watch said the proposal for mere discussions in the CCW is at best a go-slow approach to a looming humanitarian disaster, and at worst a deliberate formula for another failure of the CCW to deal with the threat posed by cluster munitions.
"It's not surprising that the biggest users of cluster munitions are reluctant to embrace a process aimed at banning such weapons," said Goose. "The Norwegian initiative is the only credible process for alleviating the suffering caused by cluster munitions, and countries serious about protecting civilians will join it right away."
The tentative list of participants to the conference includes: Afghanistan, Angola, Argentina, Austria, Belgium, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Canada, Chile, Costa Rica, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Egypt, Finland, France, Germany, Guatemala, Holy See, Hungary, Indonesia, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Jordan, Latvia, Lebanon, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Mexico, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Peru, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom.
This list notably includes several states that are not party to the CCW, such as Afghanistan, Angola, Indonesia, Lebanon and Mozambique, as well as a significant number of countries that produce or stockpile cluster munitions.
Some of the governments expected to attend the conference have not yet expressed their support for a new treaty on cluster munitions, including
Cluster munitions are stockpiled by at least 75 states and have been used in at least 23 countries. Existing cluster munitions worldwide contain billions of individual submunitions. Globally, 34 countries are known to have produced over 210 different types of air-dropped and surface-launched cluster munitions including projectiles, bombs, rockets, missiles, and dispensers. At least 13 countries have transferred more than 50 types of cluster munitions to at least 60 other countries.
With very few exceptions, existing cluster munitions are not sophisticated weapons, because neither the cluster munition nor its submunitions are guided, and very few have self-destruct or other devices to reduce the failure rate.
... Payvand News - 2/22/07 ... --