For Immediate Release
Cluster Munitions: No Middle Ground on Absolute Ban
Nations Should Reject Weak Alternative to Joining Treaty
GENEVA - The Convention on Cluster Munitions is the only viable solution to
ending the scourge of cluster munitions, Human Rights Watch said in a
new book released today. As diplomats in Geneva opened discussions on a
weak alternative, Human Rights Watch said that eliminating the harm
caused by these inhumane weapons requires the absolute and comprehensive
ban contained in the convention.
The 224-page book, Meeting the Challenge: Protecting Civilians through the Convention on Cluster Munitions,
is the culmination of a decade of research by Human Rights Watch. It
details the humanitarian toll of cluster munitions, analyzes the
international process that resulted in the treaty successfully banning
them, and presents the steps that nations that have signed the
convention should take to fulfill its promise.
"The facts on the ground leave no doubt that cluster munitions
inevitably kill and maim many civilians," said Bonnie Docherty, senior
researcher in the arms division at Human Rights Watch. "Nations serious
about stopping this suffering should join the ban convention and not
settle for ineffective half-measures."
Meeting the Challenge draws on Human Rights Watch's field
investigations to document the burdens cluster munitions impose on
civilians and on its firsthand experience as an active participant in
developing the 2008 Convention on Cluster Munitions.
Cluster munitions have been causing high numbers of civilian
casualties since their first major use in the Vietnam War about a half
century ago, and they have left large tracts of land contaminated with
landmine-like unexploded ordnance for decades. Widespread proliferation
and repeated use has made the issue one of global concern, Human Rights
Cluster munitions are large weapons that disperse dozens or hundreds
of small submunitions. The submunitions cause civilian casualties during
strikes, especially those in populated areas, because they spread over a
broad area, hitting civilians as well as soldiers. In addition, many of
the submunitions fail to explode and linger like landmines, often
killing or wounding civilians, especially children and farmers, for
The Convention on Cluster Munitions addresses all of these problems,
Human Rights Watch said. It categorically bans use, production,
transfer, and stockpiling. It also requires stockpile destruction,
clearance of unexploded submunitions, and victim assistance. The
convention currently has been signed by 108 nations, 46 of which have
ratified, thus becoming states parties, fully bound by all its
Stepping outside of traditional UN diplomacy in 2007, governments and
civil society collaborated to create the strongest treaty possible in
just 15 months. The First Meeting of States Parties to the Convention
concluded on November 12, 2010, in Vientiane, Laos, where delegates
agreed to an ambitious 66-point action plan to fulfill rapidly all of
the convention's obligations.
Yet some military powers continue to work toward an alternative
instrument that would regulate, not ban, these unacceptable weapons.
Such a protocol to the Convention on Conventional Weapons, being
discussed from November 22 to 26, would create exceptions for broad
categories of cluster munitions and establish lengthy transition
"A watered-down protocol could undermine the power of the ban
convention," Docherty said. "Countries should reject this approach once
and for all."
Human Rights Watch is one of the world's leading independent organizations dedicated to defending and protecting human rights. By focusing international attention where human rights are violated, we give voice to the oppressed and hold oppressors accountable for their crimes. Our rigorous, objective investigations and strategic, targeted advocacy build intense pressure for action and raise the cost of human rights abuse. For 30 years, Human Rights Watch has worked tenaciously to lay the legal and moral groundwork for deep-rooted change and has fought to bring greater justice and security to people around the world.