25 November 2009

Colombian Air Force destroys stockpiled cluster bombs

Chilean-produced CB-250 K cluster bombs await destruction in Colombia.Credit:Campaña Colombiana contra las MinasThe Colombian Air Force’s destruction this week of cluster bomb stockpiles is a positive step for civilian protection that challenges other Latin American countries to join the global ban on the weapon and destroy their own stockpiles, the Cluster Munition Coalition (CMC) said today."Putting these weapons forever beyond use shows that Colombia is serious about its obligations under the Convention on Cluster Munitions, even before it has entered into force," said Thomas Nash, Coordinator of the Cluster Munition Coalition. "Colombia’s neighbours in the region – particularly Argentina and Brazil, which have produced cluster munitions – should take note and realise that now is the time to renounce cluster bombs."Colombia signed the Convention on Cluster Munitions at the Oslo signing ceremony in December 2008, making it the first Latin American country to do so. Colombia is known to have stockpiled four types of cluster munitions, which according to the government were intended for use in operations against non-State armed groups.On 7 May 2009, the Colombian Air Force began the destruction of 42 CB-250 K bombs at a base located in Terecay, Vichada department. The Air Force destroyed all of its 31 remaining ARC-32 bombs at an event at the Marandua Air Force base on 24 November that was attended by Colombia’s Minister of Defence Gabriel Silva Luján and other top military officials, as well as diplomats and representatives of the UN Office of High Commissioner for Human Rights and civil society, including CMC member Campaña Colombiana contra las Minas.While this event completes destruction of two types of cluster munitions in Colombia’s stockpile, the CMC has invited Colombia to clarify the status of an additional two types of munitions. In the May 2009 report, Banning Cluster Munitions: Government Policy and Practice, Human Rights Watch and Landmine Action found that Colombia also stockpiles an AN-M41 "cluster adapter" as well as M971 120mm mortar projectiles produced by Israel, which contain 24 dual-purpose improved conventional munitions (DPCIM) self-destructing submunitions. It is not clear whether these have already been destroyed or not.Within the region, stockpiler countries Chile and Peru have signed the Convention on Cluster Munitions, but have not yet set out clear plans for the destruction of their stockpiles. Brazil, the only remaining active producer of cluster bombs in the region, and Argentina, a former producer and stockpiler, have yet to sign the Convention.A total of 103 governments have signed the Convention since December 2008, of which 24 have ratified. Thirty ratifications are needed for the Convention to enter into force and become binding international law six months later. Lao PDR, the world’s most cluster bombed country, is set to host the First Meeting of States Parties to the Convention, which is expected to take place in late 2010.Colombia’s stockpile destruction comes the week before the country hosts the Cartagena Summit on a Mine-Free World, the second international review conference on the 1997 Mine Ban Treaty, from 29 November to 4 December. At the summit, the CMC will join Lao PDR, Colombia and the United Nations Development Programme in providing a briefing on the progress of the Convention on Cluster Munitions, and will co-sponsor a quad rugby event to highlight humanitarian disarmament and disability rights ahead of the International Day of Persons with Disabilities on 3 December.