28 May 2008

Groundbreaking Treaty Banning Cluster Bombs Agreed

Download Press Release (PDF)(Dublin, May 28th, 2008) Cluster bomb suvivors and campaigners are tonight rejoicing over the groundbreaking and comprehensive new treaty to ban cluster bombs that has just been provisionally agreed in Dublin. After ten days of intense negotiation under Irish leadership, 110 countries negotiating at the conference and hundreds of campaigners and survivors within the Cluster Munition Coalition (CMC) welcomed the treaty."Here in Dublin we have consigned cluster bombs to the dustbin of history and stigmatised their use. With this historic agreement cluster bombs can never be used, produced or transferred again and this is a victory for humanity,"said Thomas Nash, coordinator of the Cluster Munition Coalition.The treaty, which will see the majority of the world's stockpilers, producers and past users of cluster bombs enforce a categorical ban, has exceeded all expectations. Although initially stockpiler nations tried to protect their own stockpiles, no transition period and no exceptions are allowed."With this treaty we have outlawed every existing type of cluster munition that has ever been used. Gordon Brown's last minute intervention will help to internationally stigmatize the weapon and prevent countries that have not signed up from using them"said Simon Conway, Co-Chair of the Cluster Munition Coalition and Director of Landmine Action.This treaty raises the bar for treaties covering conventional weapons, particularly around victim assistance. Humanitarian assistance for victims and affected communities, as well as obligations of affected countries and donors on clearance of contaminated land, go beyond what was agreed in the landmine treaty and build on the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities."I lost my arms and legs because of cluster bombs but this visionary treaty will make a real difference to people like me. Cluster bombs have a deadly legacy but Dublin’s legacy will save lives. I am proud that countries have prioritised people over weapons,"said Branislav Kapetanovic a cluster munition survivor from Serbia.At the start of the negotiations, key areas of concern included: victim assistance, joint military operations, transition period, stockpiling, clearance and definitions.The controversial new provision on joint military operations with states that refuse to join the treaty is disappointing. Campaigners are insisting that the treaty must be interpreted to prohibit foreign stockpiling and intentional assistance with use of the weapons."We are disappointed with the new provision on joint military operations. We will be watching very carefully to ensure that the countries that gathered here to ban cluster bombs can never deliberately assist those who have not and that they reject any foreign stockpiling on their soil,"said Steve Goose, CMC Co-Chair and Director of the Arms division at Human Rights Watch.Proposals for transition periods allowing states to use the weapons for anything between seven and twelve years were quashed by affected states. Stockpiles of existing weapons must now be destroyed within eight years. After a lot of work on definitions of cluster munitions – which weapons are included or not in the ban – all types of existing cluster munitions are now banned, including M85s, BLU97s and MLRS weapons. Millions of explosive submunitions are now slated for destruction for those states that join the convention"Millions of weapons are going to be immediately scrapped now, regardless of the dubious technical fixes some countries were promoting. The world is a safer place now thanks to the visionary leadership of Norway and others,"said Grethe Osthern of Norwegian Peoples Aid and CMC's Co-Chair.Tonight's provisional text will be formally adopted on Friday and opened for signature in Oslo in December. As of this Friday, when the formal adoption will take place over 100 participating states including many NATO allies, UK, Germany, France, Netherlands, Denmark, Italy, Spain, Belgium are committed to no longer using these weapons. Once countries sign the treaty in Oslo, the Vienna Convention prohibits them from using these weapons from here on.