15 January 2013

Iraq ratifies cluster bomb ban

Iraq Ratifies Cluster Bomb Ban

Iraq signing the Convention on Cluster Munitions on 12 November 2009

The Republic of Iraq has ratified the Convention on Cluster Munitions, after depositing its instrument of ratification on 14 May.

Iraq’s ratification represents a landmark moment for the Convention, given the history of use in the country, and is an important development for Iraq given the high level of cluster bomb contamination remaining and its impact on communities.

Iraq’s ratification of the Convention on Cluster Munitions demonstrates its strong commitment to the treaty in a year that marks the 10th anniversary of devastating cluster munition strikes during the 2003 invasion of Iraq. Cluster munitions were also used during the 1991 Gulf War, leaving a deadly legacy of submunition contamination in Iraq. During the 2003 invasion of Iraq, the US and UK used nearly 13,000 cluster munitions containing an estimated 1.8 million to 2 million submunitions.

After Laos, Iraq has the second highest number of recorded cluster munition casualties in the world. Data available is incomplete but latest figures in the Cluster Munition Monitor show 3,011 recorded casualties in Iraq as of 2011. However, due to the high level of contamination, the actual number of casualties from cluster munitions since 1991 is estimated at between 5,500 and 8,000, including casualties that occurred during cluster munition strikes and those occurring years afterwards. Children are estimated to have made up one quarter of these casualties.

Iraq’s plight highlights the urgent need to address and halt the use of cluster munitions by all states, notably the well-documented, ongoing and widespread use of cluster munitions in Syria by the Syrian forces. More than 150 cluster bomb attacks in at least 119 locations across Syria have been reported in the period from August 2012 through mid-February 2013, according to CMC member organisation Human Rights Watch.

“Iraq’s ratification of the Convention on Cluster Munitions is a milestone for the treaty, and a victory for advocates and survivors everywhere,” said CMC member Moaffak Alkhafaji, Director of the Iraqi Alliance for Disability.

“Iraq, as one of countries most heavily affected by cluster munitions, should send a strong message to all countries that have not joined the Convention to do so now to save lives,” said CMC Member Sherko H.Rashid, Manager of Mine & UXO Impact Relief.

Cluster munitions have a high failure rate and when submunitions fail to explode on impact as designed, they become hazardous explosive "duds"—functioning like volatile, indiscriminate antipersonnel landmines.

Iraq continues to face large-scale clearance challenges posing a serious hazard to residents and slowing development efforts. In 2010, a Mines Advisory Group (MAG) survey of Dibis, an area northwest of Kirkuk, identified 20 previously unknown cluster strikes with contamination from unexploded BLU-97 and BLU-63 submunitions, highlighting the enduring legacy of these indiscriminate weapons.

Iraq signed the Convention on Cluster Munitions on 12 November 2009. Each country that has signed the Convention must still ratify it in order to become a State Party bound by the Convention’s provisions.

Iraq is the fifth country this year to ratify the Convention with more expected to join the global ban leading up to the Fourth Meeting of States Parties to the Convention on Cluster Munitions, a key treaty meeting in Zambia, 9-13 September 2013. Andorra also became a State Party through accession this spring.

Iraq will formally become the 83rd State Party to the Convention on Cluster Munitions on 1 November 2013, following the waiting period mandated by the Convention.