08 December 2008

PRESS RELEASE: Historic treaty bans cluster bombs and stigmatizes use

Treaty remains open for signature in New York and countdown begins for ratification(Oslo, 4 December 2008) - Today in Oslo, governments from around the world celebrated the signature of an historic treaty banning the use, production, transfer and stockpiling of cluster munitions. The Convention on Cluster Munitions sets the highest standard to date in international law for assistance to victims and their communities. The convention also obliges nations to destroy all stockpiles within eight years and to clear contaminated land within ten. As with the treaty banning antipersonnel landmines, this treaty will make it difficult for countries who have not signed to ever use these weapons again. "This is an historic moment, the world has come together and today we have banned cluster bombs forever"said Thomas Nash, coordinator of the Cluster Munition Coalition. "We expect everyone in this movement to keep the focus and momentum going. The sooner thirty governments ratify the treaty, the sooner this remarkable achievement translates into action to save lives."Signatories of the treaty include dozens of users, producers and stockpilers and affected states including the Lao PDR, Lebanon and Afghanistan. With 18 of the 26 NATO countries signing the treaty, future use by the US will be severely hampered. Other countries not signing in Oslo are also feeling the effect of the two day conference with Brazil's Foreign Minister telling a congressional hearing yesterday that the government is now "reexamining its position"which could allow them to sign in the near future."These two days mark the beginning of the end for cluster munitions, no nations can ever again use these weapons without suffering intense international condemnation. Those who did not sign are on the wrong side of history. As the 1997 Mine Ban Treaty has shown even those who haven't joined will be under pressure to meet the new international standard "Said Steve Goose, co-chair CMC and Arms Division Director Human Rights Watch.The importance of the treaty was underlined by the high level of political representation at the Oslo meeting. Among the 45 Foreign, Defence and other government ministers signing the treaty were Bernard Kouchner, Foreign Affairs Minister for France, and David Miliband, Foreign Secretary for the UK. Miliband, representing the world's third largest user of the weapon in the past decade, said all states should "tell those not here in Oslo that the world has changed, that we have changed it and that a new norm has been created."Kouchner made a rousing appeal to President-elect Obama to sign the new treaty, invoking Obama's campaign slogan ‘yes we can'. At close of signature in Oslo, 94 countries had signed the treaty, but the signature process remains open in New York and more countries have committed to signing over the coming weeks.Campaigners want this to be the fastest treaty to ever enter into force and already four countries - Norway, Ireland, Sierra Leone and the Holy See - ratified the treaty immediately after their signature in Oslo. After signing an international treaty states must ratify, which usually means their own parliament must approve it.The most dramatic moment of the conference came when Afghanistan announced unexpectedly that they would sign the treaty in Oslo to rapturous applause. Afghanistan had originally said they could not sign since they were still effectively at war. The US is known to have pressured Afghanistan not to sign the treaty but Afghan campaigners, including 17 year old cluster bomb survivor Suraj Ghulam Habib lobbied the Afghan Ambassador present in Oslo through the night to get President Karzai to authorize signature."We are so happy that Afghanistan has signed. On Wednesday morning I was crying with sadness because I thought my country would not sign then when I saw my Ambassador sign the treaty I was crying for joy,"said Suraj Ghulam Habib a survivor who has campaigned with the Ban Advocates group of survivors facilitated by Handicap International in Belgium.In another positive development, the most affected country on earth, the Lao PDR, offered to host the first yearly meeting required by the treaty, where states will decide on structures, mechanisms and workplans to turn the treaty into action. Norway's Foreign Minister called on states to support this offer. The CMC is now launching an intensive campaign to ensure governments ratify the convention without delay and called on all governments in Oslo to put their full support behind the campaign."Norway has done a great job of leading us to the success today but we need Norway to play the same leadership role to help us and all our partners in states and civil society ensure that this treaty fulfills its promise,"said Co-Chair of the Cluster Munition Coalition (CMC) Grethe Østern of Norwegian People's Aid. "We need to keep up the political will and we look forward the first annual meeting in the Lao PDR as soon as possible after ratification,"she added.A number of states announced that stockpile destruction is underway, including Austria, Belgium, Germany, France, Norway and the UK, which alone has around 30 million submunitions to destroy. Spain announced that they will be finished within seven months.Several states were unable to sign due to improper paperwork and are expected to sign in the next few weeks. States, which did not sign in Oslo, will able to sign the treaty in New York. States may sign until the treaty enters into force after 30 ratifications. The treaty then becomes binding under international law and the countdown begins for land clearance within ten years and stockpile destruction within eight.Countries that signed the Convention on Cluster Bombs in Oslo, December 3rd and 4th include: Afghanistan, Albania, Angola, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Benin, Bolivia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Botswana, Bulgaria, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Canada, Cape Verde, Central African Republic, Chad, Chile, Colombia, Comores, Republic of Congo, Cook Islands, Costa Rica, Côte D`Ivoire, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Equador, El Salvador, Fiji, France, Gambia, Germany, Ghana, Guatemala, Guinea, Guinea Bissau, The Holy See, Honduras, Hungary, Iceland, Indonesia, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Kenya, Lao PDR, Lebanon, Lesotho, Liberia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Madagascar , Malawi, Mali, Malta, Mexico, Republic of Moldova, Monaco, Montenegro, Mozambique, Namibia, Nauru, Netherlands, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Niger, Norway, Palau, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Philippines, Portugal, Rwanda, Samoa, San Marino, Sao Tomé and Principe, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Slovenia, Somalia, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Togo, Uganda, United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, United Republic of Tanzania, Uruguay, Zambia.For further information, including interviews with cluster bomb survivors, former military, Nobel Peace Laureates and campaigners in every language from over 70 countries please contact:Natalie Curtis: +44 (0)7515 575 174 Natalie@stopclustermunitions.orgSamantha Bolton: +47 92 21 53 85 or +41 79 239 2366 clustermunitioncoalition@gmail.comSabrina Montanvert (French) +47 46 50 03 13 or +33 66 424 3607 S_Montanvert@yahoo.frMEDIA FACILITIES:• FTP packages for each nation's media: Raw material in IMX and DV PAL format including footage of each country's representative making their speech and signing the Convention, stock shots and background material are available on the official Norwegian government site. A link to this site, along with username and password has been generated automatically from www.osloccm.no/media.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 solutionCluster bombsMillions 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 Sahara.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, Côte 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.