18 August 2009

Cluster bomb ban on track to become international law soon

Global treaty hits halfway mark as Croatia ratifies ban(Important note: On 24 August 2009 the CMC learned from the UN Office for Legal Affairs that Zambia had desposited its instrument of ratification on 12 August making it the fifteenth country to do so)(London, 18 August 2009) The international treaty banning cluster bombs has passed the half-way milestone to the 30 ratifications needed for it to become binding international law. The UN confirmed today that Croatia became the fifteenth country to ratify the Convention on Cluster Munitions by depositing its legal instrument at the UN Headquarters in New York on Monday."By ratifying the treaty swiftly, countries have shown their commitment to humanitarian concerns and we commend them for that,"said Eva Veble of DanChurchAid, member of the Cluster Muniton Coalition. "We call on all signatories to follow suit and ratify without delay to ensure that the life-saving provisions of this convention become binding international law as soon as possible,"she added. The Convention on Cluster Munitions, signed by 98 nations since December 2008, prohibits the use, production, stockpiling and transfer of cluster munitions. It also requires clearance of areas contaminated by unexploded cluster munitions and establishes ground-breaking provisions for assistance to victims of the weapon. A total of 30 signatories must ratify to trigger entry into force of the Convention six months later. Fifteen signatories have ratified to date: Albania, Austria, Croatia, Germany, Holy See, Ireland, Japan, Lao PDR, Luxembourg, Mexico, Niger, Norway, San Marino, Sierra Leone, and Spain.Nearly every geographic region is represented in those ratifying thus far including affected countries like Albania, Sierra Leone, and Lao PDR, which will host the first meeting of states parties to the convention within the first year of entry into force. Ratifying states also include five of the nations that led the process to create the convention: Austria, Ireland, Holy See, Mexico, and Norway. Spain, the first treaty signatory to complete destruction of its entire stockpile of cluster munitions, has ratified as have Germany and Japan, both committing to destroy their stockpiles of the weapon as fast as possible."The closer we get to entry info force, the safer the world becomes from cluster bombs,"said Thomas Nash, Coordinator of the CMC. "Anyone considering using cluster bombs will be put off by the prospect of violating international law, which is why it is vital the convention takes effect as quickly as possible,"he added.The Convention on Cluster Munitions is on track to take effect during 2010, demonstrating the rapid emergence of the new international norm against these weapons. The number of ratifications is expected to increase rapidly, with Bulgaria, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Croatia, France, Gambia, Liberia, Lithuania, Montenegro, Palau, Panama, Slovenia, Tunisia, Uruguay and Zambia among those expected to ratify in coming months.Many treaty signatories have begun implementation already and should complete destruction of their stockpiles before the eight-year deadline in the convention. Countries' ability to meet the ten-year deadline for clearance of areas contaminated by cluster munitions will depend on the increased financial and technical assistance donor states must provide under the treaty, while the task of assisting victims is a life-long commitment.Before they can ratify several of the 83 remaining signatories must pass national implementation measures including imposition of penal sanctions. Campaigners in Australia, Canada, Denmark, New Zealand, Sweden, the United Kingdom and elsewhere are working to ensure strong legislation with clear interpretation of key provisions such as the ban on assisting non signatory states with prohibited acts."In addition to ratifying swiftly, it is crucial that signatories interpret and apply the convention's prohibitions as broadly as possible in order to maximize the humanitarian impact"said CMC co-chair Steve Goose of Human Rights Watch.The CMC continues to push for treaty signatories to ratify and for recalcitrant nations to sign. The CMC is working with cluster bomb survivors to ensure that non-signatories where cluster bombs have been used-such as Cambodia, Iraq, Serbia, Tajikistan and Vietnam-join the convention without delay.In August the CMC remembers the victims caused by the mid-August cluster bombings of Lebanon (2006) and Georgia/South Ossetia (2008).