22 December 2009

Belgium joins nations leading cluster bomb ban

H.E. Mr. Thomas Lambert Minister Councellor, Deputy Permanent Representative of Belgium deposits his government's ratification instrument. Photo credit: UN Treaty SectionTreaty needs just 4 more ratifications for entry into force(London, 22 December 2009) – Belgium’s ratification of the Convention on Cluster Munitions on 22 December shows its continued commitment to the most significant humanitarian and disarmament treaty of the decade, the Cluster Munition Coalition said today. As the 26th country to ratify, Belgium takes its place among the first 30 states that will trigger the Convention’s entry into force."It’s great news that Belgium has joined the vanguard of 30 countries leading the charge to ban cluster bombs," said Stan Brabant, head of policy at Handicap International Belgium. "We now call on Belgium to promote the Convention internationally and dedicate adequate resources to its universalisation efforts."The 2008 Convention comprehensively bans the use, production, stockpiling and transfer of cluster munitions, sets strict deadlines for clearance of contaminated land and destruction of stockpiles of the weapon, and includes groundbreaking provisions for assistance to victims and affected communities. Thirty ratifications are needed for the Convention to enter into force and become binding international law six months later; currently, 104 countries have signed and 26 have ratified.Although Belgium is not known to have used or exported cluster munitions, it has produced and stockpiled the weapons. Belgium announced that it had finalized the "transport" of stockpiled cluster munitions for destruction while the 2006 law banning cluster munitions in Belgium states that it must "destroy" the existing stock of cluster munitions and similar devices by 9 June 2009In February 2006, Belgium’s Federal Parliament enacted a national prohibition of cluster munitions, making it the first country to formally announce a cluster bomb ban. After passing through a long domestic approval process, the announcement flew in the face of considerable international pressure and lobbying from the arms industry, and came to the surprise of many people who thought a cluster munitions ban impossible. Belgium’s foreign minister signed the Convention at the signing ceremony in Oslo in December 2008.Handicap International Belgium, a CMC member organisation, has been an avid proponent of the Convention and was instrumental in Belgium’s participation in the Oslo Process. Its "Ban Advocates" initiative gave cluster bomb survivors and victims a platform to voice their support for the Convention, where they were prominent campaigners, powerful lobbyists and a source of inspiration.As host to EU institutions as well as NATO’s headquarters, Belgium can play a key role in promoting universalisation of the Convention.