Campaigners Welcome Signing Of Historic International Treaty Banning Deadly Cluster Munitions
New treaty also obligates governments to provide victim assistance and to clear contaminated land
Oslo, Dec 3rd, 2008 - Today in Oslo, governments from around the world are signing the most significant disarmament and humanitarian treaty of the decade, banning the use, production, transfer and stockpiling of cluster munitions, and obligating them to provide victim assistance and to clear contaminated land. Signatories of the Convention on Cluster Munitions include many of the world's producers, stockpilers and past users, as well as some of the most seriously affected states. Close to fifty foreign, defense and government ministers from around the world are signing the treaty, demonstrating the high level of political commitment to urgently rid the world of cluster munitions.
"This treaty shows what can be achieved when states and civil society act together," said Co-Chair of the Cluster Munition Coalition (CMC) Grethe Østern of Norwegian People's Aid. "This is a victory because the treaty outlines clear obligations for states to help survivors, clear the land and destroy stockpiles so that the weapon can never be used again."
Like chemical, biological, and antipersonnel landmine conventions before, this treaty bans an entire category of weapons. For over 40 years cluster bombs have killed and injured civilians during and after conflict. Unexploded cluster munitions continue to kill and injure for days, months, even decades after conflict. Tens of thousands of civilians worldwide have been killed or injured by the weapon. On average, a quarter of all cluster bomb victims are children. The treaty will help ensure that survivors, including their families and communities, receive concrete and measurable victim assistance, including physical and psycho -social needs, equality, rights and national action plans.
CMC Spokesperson Branislav Kapetanovic said, "The development of this treaty has meant a lot to me and has given me a reason to live. Being able to fight against something that brought a lot of suffering into my life and left me without arms and legs, left me without hope". Kapetanovic was injured in November 2000 while clearing NATO cluster submunitions in Serbia. "For us here, this is not the end of our road: we still have to make sure the Treaty is implemented and monitored, and that funding is available to those in need," he added.
The Convention on Cluster Munitions sets the highest standard to date in international law for assistance to victims and their communities. It obliges nations to destroy all stockpiles within eight years and to clear contaminated land within ten. States must also provide detailed annual transparency reports on progress towards meeting their legal obligations.
"Countries have finally realized that today's wars cannot be fought or won with cold war weapons - the sooner they are destroyed, the better," said Thomas Nash, CMC Coordinator. "As of today, millions of these indiscriminate weapons will be destroyed and the world will be a safer place," he added. A number of countries have already started destroying their stockpiles.
The majority of NATO countries are signing the treaty, including the UK, France and Germany, as well as most African and Latin American countries, and some of the most contaminated nations, including Laos and Lebanon. After Oslo, the treaty will remain open for signature at the UN in New York. For the treaty to enter into force it must be ratified by 30 countries.
"Like the landmine ban treaty, this treaty will
stigmatize the use of the weapon by all countries, even if they have not yet
signed the treaty, Nations such as the United States, Russia, and Israel will
risk severe international condemnation if they ever use cluster munitions
again," said CMC Co-Chair Steve Goose, Director of the Arms division at Human
Rights Watch. "This is a time to celebrate, but the work doesn't stop here. It
is time for countries to turn these binding words on paper into a reality on the
ground," he concluded.
THE CLUSTER MUNITION COALITION
The Cluster Munition Coalition (CMC) is an international coalition working to protect civilians from the effects of cluster munitions. The CMC has a membership of around 300 civil society organisations from more than 80 countries, and includes organisations working on disarmament, peace and security, human rights, victim/survivor assistance, clearance, women's rights, faith issues and other areas of work. The CMC facilitates the efforts of NGOs worldwide to educate governments, the public and the media about the problems of cluster munitions and the solution
Millions of cluster munitions containing billions of submunitions are stockpiled by at least 77 states and 34 countries are known to have produced them. They have been used in more than 32 countries and areas around the world. Millions of explosive submunitions are now slated for destruction by states that signed the Convention. Some countries have already begun destroying stockpiles.
WHAT ARE CLUSTER BOMBS?
Cluster munitions are large weapons which are deployed from the air and from the ground and release up to hundreds of smaller submunitions. Submunitions released by airdropped cluster bombs are most often called "bomblets," while those delivered from the ground by artillery or rockets are usually referred to as "grenades."
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. Existing stockpiled cluster munitions contain billions of individual submunitions. Cluster munitions have been stockpiled by at least 77 states and have been used in at least 30 countries and disputed territories. According to available information, at least 13 countries have transferred over 50 types of cluster munitions to at least 60 other countries.
WHAT'S THE PROBLEM WITH THIS WEAPON?
Air-dropped or ground-launched, they cause two major humanitarian problems and risks to civilians. First, their widespread dispersal means they cannot distinguish between military targets and civilians so the humanitarian impact can be extreme, especially when the weapon is used in or near populated areas. Many submunitions fail to detonate on impact and become de facto antipersonnel mines killing and maiming people long after the conflict has ended. These duds are more lethal than antipersonnel mines; incidents involving submunition duds are much more likely to cause death than injury.
WHO HAS USED CLUSTER MUNITIONS?
At least 15 countries have used cluster
munitions: Eritrea, Ethiopia, France, Georgia, Israel, Morocco, the Netherlands,
Nigeria, Russia (USSR), Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Tajikistan, UK, US, and FR
Yugoslavia. A small number of non-state armed groups have used the weapon (such
as Hezbollah in Lebanon in 2006). Billions of submunitions are stockpiled by
some 76 countries. A total of 34 states are known to have produced over 210
different types cluster munitions. More than two dozen countries have been
affected by the use of cluster munitions including Afghanistan, Albania, Angola,
Azerbaijan, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Cambodia, Chad, Croatia, DR Congo, Eritrea,
Ethiopia, Georgia, Grenada, Iraq, Israel, Kuwait, Laos, Lebanon, Montenegro,
Saudi Arabia, Serbia, Sierra Leone, Sudan, Syria, Tajikistan, Uganda, and
Vietnam, as well as Chechnya, Falkland/Malvinas, Nagorno-Karabakh, and Western
WHY IS A BAN ON CLUSTER MUNITIONS NECESSARY?
Simply put, cluster munitions kill and injure too many civilians. The weapon caused more civilian casualties in Iraq in 2003 and Kosovo in 1999 than any other weapon system. Cluster munitions stand out as the weapon that poses the gravest dangers to civilians since antipersonnel mines, which were banned in 1997. Yet there is currently no provision in international law to specifically address problems caused by cluster munitions. Israel's massive use of the weapon in Lebanon in August 2006 resulted in more than 200 civilian casualties in the year following the ceasefire and served as the catalyst that has propelled governments to attempt to secure a legally-binding international instrument tackling cluster munitions in 2008.
WHAT IS THE OSLO PROCESS?
In February 2007, 46 governments met in Oslo to endorse a call by Norwegian Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Støre to conclude a new legally binding instrument in 2008 that prohibits the use, production, transfer and stockpiling of cluster munitions that cause unacceptable harm to civilians and provide adequate resources to assist survivors and clear contaminated areas. Subsequent International Oslo Process meetings were held in Peru (May 2007), Austria (December 2007), and New Zealand (February 2008). 107 countries negotiated and adopted a treaty that bans cluster bombs and provides assistance to affected communities in May 2008 in Dublin.
STATES THAT ADOPTED THE CONVENTION ON CLUSTER MUNITIONS (107)
Albania, Argentina, Australia, Austria, Bahrain, Belgium, Belize, Benin, Bolivia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Botswana, Brunei Darussalam, Bulgaria, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cambodia, Cameroon, Canada, Chad, Chile, Comoros, Republic of Congo, Cook Islands, Costa Rica, Cote d'Ivoire, Croatia, Czech Republic, Democratic Republic of Congo, Denmark, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Estonia, Fiji, Finland, France, Germany, Ghana, Guatemala, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Holy See, Honduras, Hungary, Iceland, Indonesia, Ireland, Italy, Jamaica, Japan, Kenya, Kyrgyzstan, Lao PDR, Lebanon, Lesotho, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Macedonia (FYR), Madagascar, Malawi, Malaysia, Mali, Malta, Mauritania, Mexico, Moldova, Montenegro, Morocco, Mozambique, The Netherlands, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Niger, Nigeria, Norway, Palau, Panama, Papua New Guinea, Paraguay, Peru, Philippines, Portugal, Qatar, Samoa, San Marino, Sao Tome and Principe, Senegal, Serbia, Seychelles, Sierra Leone, Slovakia, Slovenia, South Africa, Spain, Sudan, Swaziland, Sweden, Switzerland, Tanzania, Timor-Leste, Togo, Uganda, United Kingdom, Uruguay, Vanuatu, Venezuela and Zambia.
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