Cluster munitions treaty agreed in Dublin

110 states agreed a provisional text for a historic new Convention on Cluster Munitions, which is a treaty to ban the “Use, Production and Transfer of Cluster Munitions”, in Dublin on Wednesday.

The agreement was reached after worldwide civil society campaigning and several international conferences of governments and NGOs, which started in Oslo in February 2007 and finished on Friday after ten days of intense negotiation in Dublin under Irish government leadership.

The provisional treaty text will be formally adopted in Dublin on Friday 30 May 2008 and opened for signature in Oslo in December 2008. As soon as the formal adoption takes place, over 100 participating states – including many NATO allies such as the UK, Germany, France, Netherlands, Denmark, Italy, Spain and Belgium – will be committed to ending the use of these indiscriminate weapons. The treaty will become legally binding once 30 states have ratified it.

Amnesty International has joined with our CMC (Cluster Munition Coalition) campaign partners and allies across the world in welcoming this landmark agreement that will set new international legal standards on the prohibition of indiscriminate weapons and the protection of civilians in and after armed conflict.

Amnesty International believes that, while the new treaty is not perfect, it will enable states to significantly reduce the risks of civilian deaths and injuries in conflict and post-conflict situations.

Amnesty International has for several years helped expose the effects of cluster bombing, for example in Iraq and Lebanon, and has been an active member of the CMC since 2007. Several Amnesty International sections – especially AI Norway, AI Peru, AI New Zealand, AI Austria and AI Ireland – have played a part in the “Oslo Process” meetings, while many sections have lobbied their home governments. This included in producer states, such as AI Belgium, AI France, AI UK and AI USA. An Amnesty International delegation of experts also participated in the conference in Dublin.

Significantly, the text of the treaty enforces a categorical ban on cluster munitions. Despite stockpiler nations initially trying to protect their own stockpiles, no transition period and no exceptions are allowed.
Moreover, the text on humanitarian assistance for victims and affected communities, as well as obligations of affected countries and donors on clearance of contaminated land, go beyond what was agreed in the landmine treaty and build on the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

However, the controversial new provision in the treaty on joint military operations with states that refuse to join the treaty is disappointing. Nevertheless, campaigners are insisting that the treaty must be interpreted to prohibit foreign stockpiling and intentional assistance with use of the weapons.

Cluster munitions are weapons that open in mid-air and randomly scatter dozens or hundreds of individual submunitions (or “bomblets”) over a large area. Cluster munitions pose severe risks to civilians’ lives and livelihoods both at the time of their use and after hostilities have ended. This is due to the wide-area effect of cluster munitions and the large number of sub-munitions they leave unexploded. Unexploded sub-munitions have a long-term impact. They cause human rights violations and hinder humanitarian assistance, peace operations, post-conflict reconstruction and development efforts. Unless practical international steps are taken, the hazards to civilians from cluster munitions will increase as cluster munitions continue to proliferate and the numbers being used rise globally.