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JRS urges stricter cluster bomb standards
November 09, 2011

JRS urges stricter cluster bomb standards
A survivor of a cluster bomb blast in Laos. While the stated aim of introducing a protocol on cluster munitions within the CCW is to address the “urgency” of the humanitarian danger caused by cluster munitions, the draft text contains a lengthy transition period that would enable compliance to be deferred for at least 12 years. (JRS)
JRS urges states to engage in the crucial negotiations during the upcoming fourth Review Conference in Geneva from November 14 to November 25, and to uphold the standards established by the Convention on Cluster Munitions. States that are committed to rid the world of the humanitarian harm caused by cluster bombs should not support the draft text.

(Rome) November 9, 2011 — Jesuit Refugee Service expresses concern about the forthcoming review of the Convention on Conventional Weapons (CCW). If the current protocol on cluster munitions is approved, it would sanction continued use of cluster munitions proven to cause unacceptable harm to civilians.

JRS urges states to engage in the crucial negotiations during the upcoming fourth Review Conference in Geneva from November 14 to November 25, and to uphold the standards established by the Convention on Cluster Munitions. States that are committed to rid the world of the humanitarian harm caused by cluster bombs should not support the draft text.

Stigmatizing the use of a weapon through the absolute prohibitions of the Convention on Cluster Munitions is a much more powerful tool for influencing the behavior of non-state parties than the weak and permissive legal regulations currently negotiated under the CCW.

JRS supports the views expressed by the Cluster Munition Coalition that this proposed protocol would cause more humanitarian harm than good. In the words of the CMC, it could lead to an increase in the use and production of cluster munitions and therefore pose an even greater humanitarian danger from cluster bombs than the status quo.

State parties should use the opportunity of the Review Conference to promote the norms of the Convention on Cluster Munitions and its universalization. The 2008 Convention on Cluster Munitions is the standard by which all states should be judged and all states should take steps towards its comprehensive ban on cluster munitions.

The protocol text is weak and, riddled with loopholes. For instance, it proposes only to ban pre-1980 cluster munitions. By the time the CCW is adopted and enters into force, these weapons are likely to be more than 40 years old and put out of service by armies regardless of any CCW regulation.

Further, the text legally permits states to use cluster munitions with a so-called failure rate of one percent or less. Negotiations for the Oslo Convention showed that actual failure rates in combat situations are higher, as much as 15 percent higher than claimed failure rates based on testing.

While the stated aim of introducing a protocol on cluster munitions within the CCW is to address the "urgency" of the humanitarian danger caused by cluster munitions, the draft text contains a lengthy transition period that would enable compliance to be deferred for at least 12 years, permitting states for more than a decade to use the certain types of cluster munitions which that have been demonstrated to cause unacceptable humanitarian problems. 

Thus, even after joining the agreement, a state would be permitted for more than 10 years to stockpile and use the types of cluster munitions that that have been demonstrated to cause unacceptable humanitarian problems. This heightens the risk for new contamination of civilian areas and prolongs the economic burden for affected and donor states.

Notes:

Following the signing of the treaty banning landmines, civil society groups, including JRS, established the Cluster Munitions Coalition, and shifted their advocacy activities to concentrate on the prohibition of cluster munitions. These weapons, when fired, release hundreds of submunitions and saturate an area as wide as several football fields. Like landmines, cluster munitions, or cluster bombs, often fail to explode on impact, representing a fatal threat to anyone in the area. Most cluster munitions, therefore, hit areas outside the military objective targeted.

After years of campaigning, in May 2008 in Dublin, Ireland, 107 countries negotiated and adopted a treaty that bans cluster bombs and provides assistance to affected communities. The Convention on Cluster Munitions, CCM, prohibits all use, stockpiling, production and transfer of cluster munitions. Separate articles in the Convention concern assistance to victims, clearance of contaminated areas and destruction of stockpiles. It becomes binding international law when it enters into force on 1 August 2010.

JRS works in more than 50 countries around the world. The organization employs more than 1,200 staff: lay, Jesuits and other religious to meet the education, health, social and other needs of 500,000 refugees and IDPs, more than half of whom are women. Our services are provided to refugees regardless of race, ethnic origin or religious beliefs.

For more information on the involvement of JRS in coalitions please click here, you will be taken to the JRS international website.

For media enquiries please contact:

James Stapleton
Communications Coordinator
Jesuit Refugee Service (International Office)
Tel: +39-06 68977468 Fax: +39-06 6897 7461
Or via Email

This video, produced in 2008, provides an introduction to and background information on cluster bombs:

The Anti-Landmine Campaign

Press Contact Information
Mr Christian Fuchs
communications@jrsusa.org
202-462-0400 ext. 5946