27 June 2007
NETHERLANDS SUSPENDS USE OF CLUSTER MUNITIONS, BUT QUESTIONS REMAIN
The Hague, 27 June 2007
The Dutch government announced a moratorium on the use of cluster munitions today, as the Parliamentary Commission on Defence held a hearing on the weapon. However, the government has left the door open to possible use in the future.
In a letter to the lower house of Parliament, the Foreign and Defence Ministers announced that the government “has decided with immediate effect that the Royal Airforce should not use cluster munitions. If situations appear in which a choice to use cluster munitions needs to be made then the government will inform parliament at the time.” The announcement means that the two types of cluster bombs in service with the Dutch air force can no longer be used without specific authorisation from the Minister of Defence and prior notification from the Minister of Defence to Parliament.
"The Dutch government has been lagging behind on cluster munition policy so we welcome this decision. It should mean that Dutch forces will never again use cluster bombs"said Thomas Nash, Coordinator of the Cluster Munition Coalition. “The specific types of cluster bombs in the Dutch arsenal are highly dangerous to civilians and should be destroyed as soon as possible,” he said. The Dutch announcement follows the comprehensive moratoria on cluster munitions already introduced by Norway, Austria and Hungary and the national ban adopted by Belgium.
The Netherlands is one of a growing group of 75 states participating in an international process to conclude a new treaty by 2008 prohibiting cluster munitions that cause unacceptable harm to civilians. The process was launched in Oslo, Norway in February 2007.
It is unclear how the announcement will affect Dutch policy in the international process. Up to now, the Netherlands has raised reservations about the comprehensive nature of a new treaty, and has supported exceptions for cluster munitions with self-destruct mechanisms.
"We are happy with this measure as a first step nationally, but the real test of its importance will be a change in the Dutch policy internationally, so that it supports a comprehensive treaty on cluster munitions. That remains to be seen,"said Miriam Struyk, from CMC member IKV Pax Christi.