Afghanistan ratifies cluster bomb ban
Afghanistan signs the Convention on Cluster Munitions at the Oslo signing conference, December 2008. Photo credit: Gunnar Mjaugedal

The Islamic Republic of Afghanistan ratified the Convention on Cluster Munitions on 8 September 2011, becoming the 62nd State Party.  This ratification comes just days before governments gather to discuss the lifesaving treaty at the Second Meeting of States Parties in Beirut, Lebanon.

“As a country where cluster munitions have been used and stockpiled, Afghanistan’s ratification of the treaty that bans this indiscriminate weapon is a significant and vital step in getting others on board the ban,” said Sulaiman Safdar of Afghan Landmine Survivors Organisation (ALSO), a member of the Governance Board of the Cluster Munition Coalition.

“Thousands of people in Afghanistan are currently living with injuries from cluster munitions and other deadly remnants of war. Thanks to the Convention’s provisions on victim assistance their rights and welfare will now be protected under international law,” Safdar added.

Cluster munitions were used extensively by Soviet and United States forces in Afghanistan between 1979 and 2002, and at least 745 people have been injured by cluster munitions there since 1980.

Between October 2001 and early 2002 alone, US aircraft dropped 1,228 cluster bombs containing 248,056 submunitions in 232 strikes on locations throughout the country.

Afghanistan participated in most meetings of the Oslo Process that created the convention, but, despite its active support for the ban objective, did not endorse the Wellington Declaration, which would have committed it to participate fully in the formal negotiations of the convention, and did not attend the negotiations in Dublin in May 2008, even as an observer.

Afghanistan came to the Convention on Cluster Munitions Signing Conference in Oslo in December 2008 as an observer, but unexpectedly signed the convention near the end of the conference after the Afghan representative announced that he had received instructions and authorization to do so.

In May 2011 U.S. diplomatic cables released via Wikileaks showed that United States – a known opponent of this international humanitarian process – had been lobbying high level officials in President Karzai’s government not to sign the Convention.

Steve Goose, Chair of the CMC, said: “We now know that Afghanistan was under real pressure not to join this treaty, even though it will help Afghan communities who have been affected by this weapon. That Afghanistan has made this humanitarian commitment deserves praise.”

The 2008 Convention comprehensively bans the use, production, stockpiling and transfer of cluster munitions, sets strict deadlines for clearance of contaminated areas and destruction of stockpiles of the weapon, and includes ground-breaking provisions for assistance to victims and affected communities. A total of 109 countries have joined the treaty, which entered into force as binding international law on 1 August 2010.

Afghanistan will formally become a State Party on 1 March 2012 after the waiting period mandated by the treaty.