The Great Debate UK

Make no exceptions to ban on cluster munitions


bonnie docherty- Bonnie Docherty, a researcher in the Arms Division at Human Rights Watch, has conducted investigative field missions on cluster munition use in Afghanistan, Iraq, Lebanon, Israel, and Georgia and was actively involved in the negotiations for the new Convention on Convention Munitions. The opinions expressed are her own. -

Six months after the new treaty banning cluster munitions opened for signature, half the world has formally expressed its support. So far, the Convention on Cluster Munitions has an impressive 98 signatories, 10 of which have ratified. Those figures are growing, and Albania, Niger, and Spain ratified this month. The convention will enter into force six months after the thirtieth state ratifies. Many observers predict that it will actually enter into force in 2010, a remarkably short turnaround for international law.

The groundbreaking convention absolutely bans the use, production, transfer, and stockpiling of cluster munitions. These large weapons carry dozens or hundreds of smaller submunitions and are notorious for causing horrible civilian deaths or injuries both during attacks and afterward.

The Convention on Cluster Munitions also requires countries that are party to destroy their stockpiles within eight years, clear their territory of unexploded submunitions within 10 years, and provide assistance to cluster munition victims. The convention is already having a positive effect at the national level. In March, Spain became the first among those that have signed to finish destroying its stockpiles – and Austria, Belgium, Colombia, Germany, Norway, and the United Kingdom have started the process.