19 December 2013

UK destroys last stockpiled cluster munition

The Cluster Munition Coalition warmly congratulates the United Kingdom on completing the destruction of its stockpile of cluster munitions, in line with its duties under the Convention on Cluster Munitions.

The UK finished destroying its large stockpile five years earlier than the Convention’s eight-year deadline.The last Multiple Launch Rocket System (MLRS) M26 bomblet was destroyed at Esplodenti Sabino's facility, Casalbordino Italy, on Tuesday 17th December 2013.Such an accomplishment is a strong indication of the UK’s commitment to the Convention and its goal of preventing further harm from cluster munitions.

Indeed, stockpile destruction has been one of the early success stories of the Convention, with 50% of the States Parties with stockpiles having already finished destruction and many more set to do so in the next couple of years. This represents over 1 million cluster munitions and 122 million submunitions destroyed by States Parties, a significant accomplishment just over three years after the Convention entered into force.

The United Kingdom, like the Netherlands and Belgium which have also finished destruction, had a significant number of cluster munitions and submunitions in its stockpile before joining. Upon joining the Convention, the United Kingdom declared a stockpile of 190,828 cluster munitions and 38,758,898 submunitions."This is one of the most significant moments in the life of the treaty banning cluster bombs and the movement to eliminate them. When this campaign started in 2003, nobody would have believed you if you had said that in ten years the UK, one of the major users of cluster bombs, would have banned the weapon and destroyed every last one of them," said Thomas Nash, Director of UK Cluster Munition Coalition member, Article 36. "It shows what is possible and what can be overcome when governments and organisations work together for a humanitarian purpose.

The UK’s stockpile destruction should encourage other states to join the ban, should dispel any lingering notions that ‘major powers’ are not on board, but most importantly it means that millions of submunitions will never be used and will never pose a threat to life or limb."The UK signed the Convention on Cluster Munitions on 3 December 2008 and ratified on 4 May 2010. It became a State Party on 1 November 2010. The UK’s position to support and implement a comprehensive ban on all cluster munitions should have a significant impact in influencing support in other countries to join the global ban.

The UK has been vocal in condemning recent use of cluster munitions by the Syrian government during 2012-13. Speaking on 28 November 2012, Foreign Minister William Hague said, "Each day brings news of fresh atrocities. I particularly condemn the shelling by Syrian regime forces of a hospital in Aleppo last week which killed five civilians; the reports that 10 children were killed when the regime dropped cluster bombs on a nursery school in Damascus province; and the regime’s use of arbitrary detention, torture, enforced disappearances and sexual violence."The Convention on Cluster Munitions entered into force on 1st August 2010, and comprehensively prohibits the use of cluster munitions as well as requiring clearance of cluster munition remnants, destruction of stockpiles, and assistance for victims.