14 November 2008

Signing global ban in Oslo next month remains best and only road ahead on cluster bombs

 Talks in Geneva fail as momentum grows for Oslo signing conference(Geneva, Switzerland, 14 November 2008) - The comprehensive global ban on cluster bombs to be signed in Oslo on 3 December has been confirmed as the only multilateral option to address humanitarian concerns. After eight weeks of negotiations in the Convention on Conventional Weapons (CCW) the US, South Korea, Israel and others failed to push through agreement on an alternative accord in to allow continued use."The treaty to be signed in Oslo next month is the only way to make sure there is no more use, production or transfer of these indiscriminate killers. Oslo is the only game in town. All those serious about protecting civilians from cluster bombs will join the majority of the world's states and sign up in Norway,"said Thomas Nash, Coordinator of the CMC.Over 100 countries are expected to sign the Convention on Cluster Munitions (CCM) when it opens for signature. The comprehensive treaty was adopted in Dublin on 30 May 2008 by 107 states including the majority of the world's stockpilers, past users and producers of the weapon. The 18 month "Oslo Process"to achieve the treaty was driven in part by countries affected by cluster munitions, almost all of which are expected to sign the ban in Oslo.Those countries that were seeking an alternative agreement in the Convention on Conventional Weapons to provide legitimacy for their future use, production and transfer of cluster bombs are the same countries that have rejected the Oslo Process. It is a limited group including the US, China, Russia, India, Pakistan, Israel, Finland and the Republic of Korea. The CCW has failed since 2001 to take action on this issue."It's difficult to hear countries like the US, Russia and others supporting the adoption of the meaningless draft protocol that was on the table. The proposal they supported would have allowed continued use of even the world's most dangerous cluster bombs. The reality is that the new Convention on Cluster Munitions is the only way to provide real protection to civilians,"said Katherine Harrison of Landmine Action.The Convention on Cluster Munitions also sets a very strict new standard on assistance to the victims of cluster bombs, something that has also been questioned by the group of states calling for an alternative agreement in the CCW."Not only were these countries refusing to ban cluster bombs, but they were also acting to weaken the global standard just agreed in the Oslo Process to provide support for the needs of survivors, their families and communities, despite the powerful testimony brought into the room by victims,"said Paul Vermeulen of Handicap International.There have been wide divergences in the CCW between those states committed to a ban on cluster munitions, states such as the US supporting the weak standard being promoted by the Danish Chairperson and states such as Russia and India who had sought to weaken this standard even further. These wide divergences were in full view today as Russia refused to allow a reference to a "protocol"in the work programme for next year. This now states there will be negotiations but fails to mention the intended product of these negotiations.During the Geneva talks the CMC has welcomed the strong support demonstrated by the majority of states for the standards set by the new global ban treaty. It is expected that the continued stigmatisation of this weapon around the world will accelerate with the widespread signature of the treaty in Oslo and that this will eventually lead to a vast reduction in its use, production and transfer, even by the limited group of states remaining outside its legal norms. This has been the case with the Mine Ban Treaty prohibiting antipersonnel mines which has been rejected by a similar limited group but whose use has all but disappeared."Even before the treaty is signed, cluster munitions are already being destroyed, production contracts are being reviewed, instructions to armed forces are being prepared. Whatever happens in the CCW, the ban in Oslo is the new standard that counts and this weapon is quickly going to become a thing of the past,"said Mark Hiznay of Human Rights Watch.For further information please call: Thomas Nash at +441177926730