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PORTSIDE  August 2010, Week 1

PORTSIDE August 2010, Week 1

Subject:

Long-Awaited Cluster Bomb Ban Enters Into Force

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Date:

Sun, 1 Aug 2010 19:28:42 -0400

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Long-Awaited Cluster Bomb Ban Enters Into Force
By Esther Banales
IPS
July 30, 2010
http://ipsnews.net/news.asp?idnews=52331

UNITED NATIONS, Jul 30, 2010 (IPS) - Thirty-eight
countries will start observing the Convention on Cluster
Munitions this Sunday, Aug. 1, after a rapid entry into
force since the treaty was announced two years ago in
Oslo.

"This new instrument is a major advance for the global
disarmament and humanitarian agendas, and will help us
to counter the widespread insecurity and suffering
caused by these terrible weapons, particularly among
civilians and children," noted U.N. Secretary-General
Ban Ki-moon.

Cluster munitions explode in mid-air to release dozens -
sometimes hundreds - of smaller "bomblets" across large
areas. Because the final location of these scattered
smaller bombs is difficult to control, they can cause
large numbers of civilian casualties.

Bomblets that fail to explode immediately may also lay
dormant, potentially acting as landmines and killing or
maiming civilians long after a conflict is ended.
Children are known to be particularly at risk from dud
cluster munitions since they are often attracted to the
shiny objects and less aware of their dangers.

Since the countdown towards enforcement started in
February 2010, the Cluster Munition Coalition (CMC), a
civil society campaign, has been raising public
awareness and encouraging countries to adhere to the
"most significant disarmament and humanitarian treaty in
over a decade".

"Our activities more recently have been aimed at trying
to get an early entry into force, getting to the 30
ratifications necessary to do this," Stephen Goose, one
of the founders and co-chair of the CMC and director of
the Arms Division at Human Rights Watch (HRW), told IPS.
"It is quite unusual for so many countries to have
already completed their ratification procedures."

After Sunday, more countries are expected to join the
current list of 38. "Many of the states who signed but
not yet ratified are very close to ratifying it, most of
them awaiting completion of their national domestic law
procedures," an official with the Office for Disarmament
Affaires (ODA) at the United Nations told IPS.

So far, 107 countries have signed. Others remain
hesitant.

For example, Thailand, a leader in the adoption of the
landmark Mine Ban Treaty in 1997, has not yet become a
signatory. The CMC has been lobbying its Foreign
Ministry to join the treaty, and called for Thailand to
attend the First Meeting of States Parties from Nov.
9-12 in Laos.

"Although Thailand possesses cluster munition
stockpiles, this should not be a barrier to joining this
important agreement," reads a recent letter sent by the
CMC. "Thailand has already announced that it does not
intend to use cluster munitions and its stockpiles are
outdated. The Convention also contains an eight year
period in which States Parties need to complete the
destruction of stockpiles."

IPS contacted the Mission of Thailand to the United
Nations, but received no answer by press time.

The letter was one of many sent to governments around
the world as part of the "Countdown to Entry Into Force"
campaign led by the coalition that appealed to
governments in Morocco, Slovakia, and Sudan, among
others.

"The Convention will have a stigmatising effect even for
countries that haven't joined," Conor Fortune, a media
officer with the CMC, told IPS. "We've already seen that
there was international public condemnation when the
weapon was used in recent armed conflicts, by Russia and
Georgia over South Ossetia in 2008 and by Israel in
Lebanon in 2006."

In the West, the United States has also been a focus of
the coalition's efforts. "At the moment the [Barack]
Obama Administration is engaged in a very in-depth
review of their landmine policy to see if they want to
join the convention," Goose explained. "The U.S. has
already acknowledged that cluster munitions should be
banned at some point in the future."

Meanwhile, the Pentagon declared that the U.S. will
restrain from using cluster munitions with a failure
rate of more than one percent, which would include all
but a small fraction, by the end of 2018.

"[The U.S.] should not wait another eight years to stop
using cluster munitions; it should ban them now," Goose
declared.

Prohibition of cluster munitions, however, is just a
part of what the convention stands for. The treaty also
requires destruction of stockpiles within eight years
and clearance of contaminated land within 10 years. It
also recognises the rights of individuals affected by
these weapons to receive assistance and compels all
countries to support states in fulfilling their
obligations.

"Assistance could be provided either bilaterally or
through the U.N., international and regional
organisations, International Committee of the Red Cross
(ICRC), and NGOs, and could take the form of financial,
technical and other assistance," according to ODA.

The primary responsibility to provide assistance lies,
however, with state parties and applies to their
jurisdiction. If one state lacks resources, other
countries or organisations could provide it.

"Nations that remain outside this treaty are missing out
on the most significant advance in disarmament of the
past decade," Goose said. "If governments care enough
about humanitarian law and protecting civilians from the
deadly effects of armed conflict, they will join
immediately."

_____________________________________________

Portside aims to provide material of interest
to people on the left that will help them to
interpret the world and to change it.

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