08 July 2008


PRESS RELEASE: U.S. OUT OF STEP WITH ALLIES WITHHOLLOW "NEW"CLUSTER BOMB POLICY: UNRESTRICTED USE FOR ANOTHER DECADE(Geneva, July 8, 2008) - A month after 111 nations including major US allies agreed to ban cluster bombs, the United States says it will continue to use its huge stockpile for another decade. According to the new policy memorandum signed by Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, the US will also seek to ship cluster bombs to other countries, despite US law prohibiting transfers. After 2018, the US will still use cluster munitions with a claimed failure rate of less than 1 percent, despite wide recognition that a failure rate approach will not prevent unacceptable harm to civilians.The policy puts the US squarely at odds with the 111 nations-including nearly all major US allies-that agreed to a new international treaty in May that comprehensively bans the use, production, trade and stockpiling of cluster munitions, no matter what the failure rate. The United States has been the leading known user, producer, stockpiler, and exporter of cluster bombs."Washington's cluster bomb policy is too little, too late,"said Steve Goose, director of the arms division at Human Rights Watch, and co-chair of the Cluster Munition Coalition. "Most key US allies have already rejected cluster bombs because innocent civilians are killed and maimed, not only when the weapons are used but also months and years after that. Knowing this, how in good conscience can the US wait 10 years to accept a lesser standard?"The US policy will allow unfettered use of the nearly 1 billion submunitions now in US stockpiles for the next decade, almost all of which are known to have very high failure rates and to be highly inaccurate, as shown in Lebanon, Iraq, Afghanistan, Kosovo, and in southeast Asia. Even the future policy is flawed with the percentage failure rate approach having been discredited after evidence from the 2006 conflict in Lebanon and rejected by states adopting the global ban last May."Even in ten years time, this policy will not be sufficient to protect civilians,"said Grethe Ostern of Norwegian People's Aid, co-chair of the CMC. "There are no safe cluster bombs. The failure rate determined under testing conditions will have little relationship to the real failure rate in combat. And even then, the new US policy will not address the indiscriminate, wide area effect of cluster munitions during attacks."In addition to allowing continued use, the US would seek to transfer cluster munitions around the world, even though current law prohibits it. "Shockingly, the new policy states the US will seek to ship cluster munitions with high failure rates to other countries, despite the fact that Congress passed and President Bush signed a law last year banning such trade,"said Goose.The export market may be limited, as the majority of past recipients of US cluster munitions have banned the weapon.The US is promoting its policy at the Convention on Conventional Weapons in Geneva this week. Nations that have not accepted the Convention on Cluster Munitions agreed in Dublin last May are pursuing work on this issue in Geneva, although Russia, China, India, Pakistan, Israel and the US have already ruled out a prohibition on cluster munitions in that forum."Countries not yet committed to the global ban need to choose between real action or increasing isolation. Regardless of what might happen elsewhere, the stigma against cluster bombs is already deeply entrenched and the only standard to meet is the Convention on Cluster Munitions,"said Thomas Nash, Coordinator of the Cluster Munition Coalition.Cluster bombs are large weapons that contain dozens or hundreds of smaller submunitions. They cause unacceptable humanitarian harm in two ways. First, their broad-area effect kills and injures civilians during strikes. Second, many submunitions do not explode, becoming de facto landmines that cause civilian casualties for months or years to come.The United States did not participate in the Oslo Process, the diplomatic process that concluded in May 2008 with 111 countries adopting a final treaty text. The new treaty will be open for signature by all nations in Oslo in December.For key facts on the United States' use, production, stockpiling, and transfer of cluster munitions, please visit:http://hrw.org/english/docs/2008/06/25/global19192.htmFor more information on cluster munitions and the newly adopted Convention on Cluster Munitions, please visit:• General information: www.stopclustermunitions.org• Types of cluster munitions in global stockpiles: http://www.hrw.org/pub/2008/arms/Stockpiled_ClusterMunitions_140508.pdf• Timeline of cluster munitions use: http://www.hrw.org/pub/2008/arms/Timeline_Cluster_Use_05.08.pdfFor more information, please contact:In Washington, DC, Steve Goose: +1-540-630-3011 (mobile); or gooses@hrw.orgIn Geneva, Thomas Nash: +447711926730 (mobile); or thomas@stopclustermunitions.orgIn Geneva, Mark Hiznay: +1-202-352-8983 (mobile)In the UK, Natalie Curtis: +44 (0)20 7820 0222; or Natalie@stopclustermunitions.orgPRESS RELEASE: U.S. OUT OF STEP WITH ALLIES WITH HOLLOW “NEW” CLUSTER BOMB POLICY