10 November 2008

Latin American and Caribbean confirms leadership role in cluster bomb ban

Regional conference in Ecuador closes with strong commitments to sign treaty in Oslo(Quito, Ecuador, 7 November 2008) - The regional conference hosted by Ecuador closed today with Latin American and Caribbean countries confirming their strong support for the Convention on Cluster Munitions to be signed in Oslo on December 3 2008."Latin America and the Caribbean helped deliver a comprehensive ban at the negotiations in May and we are pleased the region is showing the same enthusiasm and determination now. We congratulate Ecuador and all those who have committed to sign in Oslo and call on all others countries in the region to do the same,"said Thomas Nash, Coordinator of the Cluster Munition Coalition.The conference showed once more Ecuador's leadership role in the Oslo Process, with the Foreign Minister noting her commitment to signature in Oslo and swift ratification. Of the 21 countries attending the conference Bolivia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Panama and Paraguay announced they would sign the treaty in Oslo, joining Chile, Mexico and Uruguay who had already made the commitment. The Dominican Republic, Jamaica and Peru are working on internal processes for signature. Colombia sent a senior delegation, indicating its strongest engagement yet on this issue."Colombia's positive engagement in this conference is a welcome sign that the government is seriously considering joining its neighbours in Oslo to sign this crucial international treaty. We strongly urge the government to make the right decision and sign in December,"said Camilo Serna, of the Colombian Campaign against Landmines and CMC representative in Colombia.In another positive development at the conference, Chile announced that it would host a follow up regional conference in early 2009 to promote ratification and universalisation of the treaty after the Oslo Signing Conference in December."We congratulate Chile for its leadership and commitment in the effort to ban cluster bombs and we look forward to the conference in Chile in 2009 which will be the next step to ensure the success of the treaty in our region,"said Pamela Velasquez, of the IEP and CMC representative in Chile.Over 100 countries are expected to sign the Convention on Cluster Munitions (CCM) when it opens for signature in Oslo on 3 December 2008. The comprehensive ban treaty was adopted in Dublin on 30 May 2008 by 107 states including the majority of the world's stockpilers and past users and producers of the weapon. The 18 month "Oslo Process"to achieve the treaty was driven in part by countries affected by cluster munitions, almost all of which are expected to join the ban in Oslo.A total of 18 states from the region formally adopted the Convention in Dublin. In addition to beating back attempts to weaken the ban, during the negotiations delegates from Latin America and the Caribbean helped deliver the strongest victim assistance provisions ever set out in international law.Brazil, Cuba and Venezuela were the only Latin American countries not to attend the conference in Ecuador. Brazil, a producer, exporter, and stockpiler of cluster munitions, is the region's main opponent of the Oslo Process and did not participate in the negotiations or preparatory meetings. However, the government is understood to be reconsidering its position in advance of the Oslo conference and the Foreign Minister noted in July that: "I consider cluster bombs an inhumane weapon and we should work so that it is eliminated.""Once again the region has spoken clearly in favour of the ban on cluster bombs and once again Brazil has sat outside in the cold. We hope the Brazilian government will see sense -cluster bombs kill civilians, they don't work, they are being banned and the market for these weapons has gone. Latin America is showing leadership on this issue even without Brazil,"said Cristian Wittman, Brazilian representative of the CMC.Argentina and Chile have both renounced future production of cluster munitions. In addition to Brazil, Chile, Cuba and Peru also stockpile cluster munitions. Argentina and Honduras have destroyed their stockpiles.For further information please call: Wanda Muñoz at +593 (0)96 762780Notes to Editors:The problem of cluster bombs in Latin AmericaCluster munitions have only been used twice in the hemisphere. British aircraft dropped BL-755 cluster bombs during the armed conflict in the Falkland Islands/Islas Malvinas in 1982. In the other instance, US Navy aircraft dropped 21 Mk.-20 Rockeye bombs during the invasion of Grenada in November 1983.What are cluster bombs?Cluster munitions are large weapons which are deployed from the air and from the ground and release up to hundreds of smaller submunitions. Submunitions released by airdropped cluster bombs are most often called "bomblets,"while those delivered from the ground by artillery or rockets are usually referred to as "grenades."Globally, 34 countries are known to have produced over 210 different types of air-dropped and surface-launched cluster munitions including projectiles, bombs, rockets, missiles, and dispensers. Existing stockpiled cluster munitions contain billions of individual submunitions. Cluster munitions have been stockpiled by at least 77 states and have been used in at least 30 countries and disputed territories. According to available information, at least 13 countries have transferred over 50 types of cluster munitions to at least 60 other countries.What's the problem with this weapon?Air-dropped or ground-launched, they cause two major humanitarian problems and risks to civilians. First, their widespread dispersal means they cannot distinguish between military targets and civilians so the humanitarian impact can be extreme, especially when the weapon is used in or near populated areas. Many submunitions fail to detonate on impact and become de facto antipersonnel mines killing and maiming people long after the conflict has ended. These duds are more lethal than antipersonnel mines; incidents involving submunition duds are much more likely to cause death than injury.Who has used cluster munitions?At least 15 countries have used cluster munitions: Eritrea, Ethiopia, France, Georgia, Israel, Morocco, the Netherlands, Nigeria, Russia (USSR), Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Tajikistan, UK, US, and FR Yugoslavia. A small number of non-state armed groups have used the weapon (such as Hezbollah in Lebanon in 2006). Billions of submunitions are stockpiled by some 76 countries. A total of 34 states are known to have produced over 210 different types cluster munitions. More than two dozen countries have been affected by the use of cluster munitions including Afghanistan, Albania, Angola, Azerbaijan, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Cambodia, Chad, Croatia, DR Congo, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Georgia, Grenada, Iraq, Israel, Kuwait, Laos, Lebanon, Montenegro, Saudi Arabia, Serbia, Sierra Leone, Sudan, Syria, Tajikistan, Uganda, and Vietnam, as well as Chechnya, Falkland/Malvinas, Nagorno-Karabakh, and Western Sahara.Why is a ban on cluster munitions necessary?Simply put, cluster munitions kill and injure too many civilians. The weapon caused more civilian casualties in Iraq in 2003 and Kosovo in 1999 than any other weapon system. Cluster munitions stand out as the weapon that poses the gravest dangers to civilians since antipersonnel mines, which were banned in 1997. Yet there is currently no provision in international law to specifically address problems caused by cluster munitions. Israel's massive use of the weapon in Lebanon in August 2006 resulted in more than 200 civilian casualties in the year following the ceasefire and served as the catalyst that has propelled governments to attempt to secure a legally-binding international instrument tackling cluster munitions in 2008.What is the Oslo Process?In February 2007, 46 governments met in Oslo to endorse a call by Norwegian Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Støre to conclude a new legally binding instrument in 2008 that prohibits the use, production, transfer and stockpiling of cluster munitions that cause unacceptable harm to civilians and provide adequate resources to assist survivors and clear contaminated areas. Subsequent International Oslo Process meetings were held in Peru (May 2007), Austria (December 2007), and New Zealand (February 2008). 107 countries negotiated and adopted a treaty that bans cluster bombs and provides assistance to affected communities in May 2008 in Dublin.The role of the region in the Oslo ProcessIn May 2007, Peru hosted one of the four major international meetings of the Oslo Process, which served to develop the treaty text for the Dublin negotiations. In addition to widespread participation in the international meetings, governments from Latin America and the Caribbean gathered in San José, Costa Rica in September 2007 and in Mexico in advance of the Dublin negotiations in 2008.States that adopted the Convention on Cluster Munitions (107)Albania, Argentina, Australia, Austria, Bahrain, Belgium, Belize, Benin, Bolivia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Botswana, Brunei Darussalam, Bulgaria, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cambodia, Cameroon, Canada, Chad, Chile, Comoros, Republic of Congo, Cook Islands, Costa Rica, Côte d'Ivoire, Croatia, Czech Republic, Democratic Republic of Congo, Denmark, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Estonia, Fiji, Finland, France, Germany, Ghana, Guatemala, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Holy See, Honduras, Hungary, Iceland, Indonesia, Ireland, Italy, Jamaica, Japan, Kenya, Kyrgyzstan, Lao PDR, Lebanon, Lesotho, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Macedonia (FYR), Madagascar, Malawi, Malaysia, Mali, Malta, Mauritania, Mexico, Moldova, Montenegro, Morocco, Mozambique, The Netherlands, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Niger, Nigeria, Norway, Palau, Panama, Papua New Guinea, Paraguay, Peru, Philippines, Portugal, Qatar, Samoa, San Marino, Sao Tome and Principe, Senegal, Serbia, Seychelles, Sierra Leone, Slovakia, Slovenia, South Africa, Spain, Sudan, Swaziland, Sweden, Switzerland, Tanzania, Timor-Leste, Togo, Uganda, United Kingdom, Uruguay, Vanuatu, Venezuela and Zambia.States from Latin America and the Caribbean that adopted the CCMArgentina, Belize, Bolivia, Chile, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Jamaica, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Uruguay, and Venezuela.The Cluster Munition Coalition (CMC) is a network of 250 civil society organizations working in 70 countries to end the harm caused by cluster munitions. Founding members include Human Rights Watch, Handicap International and other leaders from the Nobel Peace Prize-winning International Campaign to Ban Landmines which secured the 1997 Mine Ban Treaty.CMC Press Release, 7 November 2008, (English)CMC Press Release, 7 November 2008, (Spanish)www.stopclustermunitions.org