Campaigners launch Global Day of Action to ban cluster bombs in support of first ever treaty

Campaigners from more than 40 countries around the world, including Amnesty International, are hosting a Global Day of Action to Ban Cluster Bombs on Saturday 19 April 2008. This will take place a month before world governments meet at the Dublin Diplomatic Conference On Cluster Munitions from 19 – 30 May 2008 to negotiate and adopt the first ever legally binding treaty to prohibit cluster munitions.

The Global Day of Action to Ban Cluster Bombs aims to highlight 40 years of civilian deaths and injuries caused by cluster bombs. The appearance and size of cluster bombs make them look particularly interesting, and toy-like. It is estimated that 60% of civilian casualties are children.

Amnesty International said: “We welcome the attention cluster munitions are being given by a growing number of governments around the world, and call on world leaders at the Dublin conference to negotiate the strongest possible treaty to ban the use of these horrific weapons.”

Nearly 50 companies are now producing cluster munitions despite growing worldwide calls for such inhumane weapons to be banned. The companies are located in all world regions, particularly in the USA and Europe. Worryingly the number in Asia is increasing. One of the nine producer companies in Asia that is located in South Korea sent cluster munitions rockets to Pakistan, the shipload arrived on 19 March 2008. While, alongside the cluster munitions from the USA, Chinese 122mm Type 81 cluster munition rockets and MZD-2 submunitions for such rockets were found in Lebanon during the fighting between Israeli and Hezbollah forces in mid 2006.

At the Dublin conference governments from across the world will meet to negotiate the most significant disarmament and humanitarian treaty in more than a decade. The treaty will bring about a ban on cluster bombs, rapid clearance of contaminated land and an increase in the vital assistance to victims. The treaty aims to build on the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities further assisting victims.

Amnesty International said: “It is vital that at the historic Dublin conference, states adopt a Cluster Munition treaty that aims to establish global standards to save the many thousands of lives blighted by these weapons. Governments must also provide humanitarian assistance to survivors, and resources to help clean up contaminated areas without delay.”

In February 2007 and leading up to this historic conference, governments from around the world launched an initiative in Oslo to ban cluster munitions. Forty-six states announced support for the Oslo Declaration. They pledged to conclude with a legally binding treaty by 2008 that would prohibit the use, transfer, and production of cluster munitions that cause unacceptable harm to civilians, and provide adequate resources to assist survivors and clear contaminated areas. The commitment declared at the Oslo Declaration was reaffirmed in the Wellington Declaration of 22 February 2008, where states also pledged to conclude the negotiations in Dublin in May 2008. Some 85 states have so far endorsed this Declaration. The US, Russia and China have remained outside this ban process but agreed last November to put cluster bombs on the agenda of the Convention on Conventional Weapons (CCW).

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Background information

•    A cluster munition is a weapon comprising multiple explosive submunitions which are dispensed from a container. An explosive submunition is a munition designed to be dispensed in multiple quantities from a container and to detonate prior to, on, or after impact. (Source – Definition of Cluster Munition by the Cluster Munition Campaign – CMC)

•    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 long-term impacts, hinder humanitarian assistance, peace operations, cause human rights violations, 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.