At last week's signing of the Convention on Cluster Munitions - which bans the production, stockpiling, use and export of cluster bombs - four countries also ratified the agreement.
Norway, Ireland, Sierra Leone and the Holy See signed and ratified the Convention at a conference in Oslo last week. The treaty cannot take effect until 30 countries have ratified. In total, 94 countries have now signed the Convention. They include three of the worst affected by the use of cluster bombs – Afghanistan, Lebanon and Laos.
"This historic ban will greatly reduce the devastating impact of cluster munitions on human rights, It is vital now that states ratify the convention so it can enter into force without delay,”
said Brian Wood, Amnesty International's arms control manager,
Further signatories are expected in the coming months. Civil society campaigners predict that at least 100 states will eventually sign. Following the signing in Oslo, the treaty will now go to the United Nations in New York.
The treaty, which was negotiated in Dublin in May 2008, requires states to provide adequate assistance to victims of cluster munitions and for states to destroy their stockpiles
For more than 40 years, cluster bombs have killed and wounded innocent people, causing untold suffering, loss and hardship for thousands in more than 20 countries. These weapons cause death and injury to civilians during attacks and for years afterwards because of the lethal contamination that they cause when they fail to detonate on impact.
The weapon caused more civilian casualties in Iraq in 2003 and Kosovo in 1999 than any other weapon system. Israel's massive use of the weapon in Lebanon in August 2006 resulted in more than 200 civilian casualties in the year following the ceasefire. Alongside cluster munitions from the US, Chinese 122mm Type 81 cluster munition rockets and MZD-2 submunitions for such rockets were also found in Lebanon.
A cluster munition is a weapon comprising multiple explosive submunitions which are dispensed from a container. Cluster bombs hamper post-conflict rebuilding and rehabilitation and the dangerous work of cluster bomb clearance absorbs funds that could be spent on other urgent humanitarian needs. The appearance and size of cluster bombs make them look interesting, and toy-like. An estimated 60 percent of civilian casualties are children.
The countries that signed the Convention on Cluster Bombs in Oslo, on 3 and 4 December are: Afghanistan; Albania; Angola; Australia; Austria; Belgium; Benin; Bolivia; Bosnia and Herzegovina; Botswana; Bulgaria; Burkina Faso; Burundi; Canada; Cape Verde; Central African Republic; Chad; Chile; Colombia; Comores; Republic of Congo; Cook Islands; Costa Rica; Côte D`Ivoire; Croatia; Czech Republic; Denmark; Equador; El Salvador; Fiji; France; Gambia; Germany; Ghana; Guatemala; Guinea; Guinea Bissau; The Holy See; Honduras; Hungary; Iceland; Indonesia; Ireland; Italy; Japan; Kenya; Lao PDR; Lebanon; Lesotho; Liberia; Liechtenstein; Lithuania; Luxembourg; Madagascar; Malawi; Mali; Malta; Mexico; Republic of Moldova; Monaco; Montenegro; Mozambique; Namibia; Nauru; Netherlands; New Zealand; Nicaragua; Niger; Norway; Palau; Panama; Paraguay; Peru; Philippines; Portugal; Rwanda; Samoa; San Marino; Sao Tomé and Principe; Senegal; Sierra Leone; Slovenia; Somalia; South Africa; Spain; Sweden; Switzerland; the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia; Togo; Uganda; United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland; United Republic of Tanzania; Uruguay and Zambia.