18 July 2012

Switzerland ratifies Cluster Bomb Ban

Switzerland signs the Convention at the CCM signing conference in Oslo, Norway 2008. Photo credit: Gunnar Mjaugedal/catchlight.no Switzerland ratified the Convention on Cluster Munitions on 17 July 2012 becoming the 75th State Party to the treaty. Switzerland will formally become a State Party on 1 January 2013, after the waiting period mandated by the Convention, and is provisionally applying the ban effective immediately.Switzerland signed the Convention on Cluster Munitions at the Oslo signing conference, 3 December 2008. At the time, Minister of Foreign Affairs Micheline Calmy-Rey called the Convention a "strong and ambitious treaty which provides recognition to all those men, women and children who are dead or who have seen their existence shattered by these weapons in the course of recent decades."On 5 March this year, the Swiss House of Representatives voted overwhelmingly in favour of the ratifying the treaty with a majority of 146 to 26. During debate on the issue, Foreign Minister Didier Burkhalter stressed the broad international acceptance of the treaty saying: "Nearly all European countries have ratified it. It is crucial that Switzerland follows suit."In addition, Switzerland enacted legislation to implement the Convention by approving amendments to its Federal Law on War Material. This includes penal sanctions for any violations of the Convention up to ten years imprisonment and/or fines. It also prohibits direct and indirect investment in production of cluster munitions.CMC campaign member Petra Schroeter, Director of HI Switzerland said, "It is welcome news that Switzerland is now fully on board the Convention on Cluster Munitions. As a global financial hub, it is important that Switzerland has banned the financing of cluster munitions. Whilst we believe the wording of the legislation could be even stronger, civil society will continue to publish the names of those companies which produce outlawed weapons to ensure that investors cannot claim ignorance."In 2001 Switzerland was among the first countries to propose international action on cluster munitions, initially within the framework of the Convention on Conventional Weapons in 2001, and was among the first with domestic initiatives aimed at banning the weapon.During the Oslo Process that produced the Convention on Cluster Munitions, Switzerland’s position shifted to fully endorse the comprehensive prohibition of cluster munitions. Switzerland participated actively in negotiations, successfully advocating for ground-breaking provisions for victim assistance, which particularly emphasized the importance of a non-discriminatory approach and of access to medical and social services for victims.According to Cluster Munition Monitor, Switzerland has never used or exported cluster munitions, but had previously imported them from Israel and the United Kingdom and currently has a stockpile of cannon artillery and mortar projectiles with submunitions, but not of air-launched cluster munitions. In accordance with the provisions of the Treaty Switzerland must destroy its stockpile of cluster munitions as soon as possible and at latest by 2021. In 2011, the Federal Council announced that "Swiss stocks of artillery munitions that are subject to the CCM ban will be destroyed" within eight years. Although Switzerland never per se produced cluster munitions it did formally add specific features to and reassemble cluster munitions purchased abroad. This process ended in 2004.