05 May 2010

UK ratifies international treaty banning cluster bombs

The United Kingdom's Foreign Secretary David Miliband signs the Convention on Cluster Munitions on 3 December 2008. Photo Credit: Gunnar Mjaugedal/catchlight.no (London, 5 May 2010) – The United Kingdom, a major former producer and user of cluster munitions, ratified the Convention on Cluster Munitions at the United Nations on 4 May 2010, becoming the 32nd country to do so. "By banning cluster bombs, the UK has made its priorities clear - protecting civilians is more important than protecting stockpiles of outdated weapons,"said Portia Stratton, Advocacy Manager for Landmine Action, which is on the Steering Committee of the Cluster Munition Coalition (CMC). “The UK government should be commended for already beginning to implement the Convention and promoting its norms.”The Convention comprehensively bans the use, production, stockpiling and transfer of cluster munitions, requires clearance of contaminated land within 10 years, destruction of stockpiled cluster munitions within eight years, and includes groundbreaking provisions for victim assistance. To date, 106 countries have signed the treaty, of which 32 have ratified, and it becomes binding international law on 1 August.British government support for the draft text of the Convention during final negotiations in Dublin in May 2008 signalled a significant policy turnaround and was a major factor in many other states deciding to adopt the text. The UK signed the Convention at the Oslo signing ceremony in December 2008 and the UK Cluster Munition (Prohibition) Bill received Royal Assent on 25 March 2010, after passing through both houses of Parliament with wide cross-party support.In the past, the UK used cluster munitions in the Falkland Islands/Malvinas (1982), Iraq and Kuwait (1991), the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia including Kosovo (1999) and Iraq (2003). It produced, exported and imported the weapon, and amassed a sizable stockpile.More than a third of the UK’s cluster bombs have reportedly been destroyed, and the government has committed to eradicating its remaining stockpile by 2013, well ahead of the allotted eight years under the Convention."Through extensive debate, research and advocacy, the UK government was convinced that supporting a complete ban on cluster bombs is the only way to end the civilian suffering these weapons cause,” said Laura Cheeseman, Campaign Manager for the CMC. “The UK must now accelerate its work to convince others to get on board the ban treaty before the First Meeting of States Parties in Lao PDR in November.”Many of the UK’s allies have signed or ratified the treaty, including 20 out of 28 NATO members. The UK has engaged in outreach to a number of Commonwealth countries that have not yet signed.The treaty will enter into force for the UK on 1 November, meaning the UK government will be eligible to participate fully in the First Meeting of States Parties from 8-12 November in Lao PDR, the most cluster bomb-contaminated country in the world. The CMC urges all states to attend this meeting, regardless of whether or not they have signed or ratified the treaty.