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I salute the Arms Control Association … for its keen vision of the goals ahead and for its many efforts to identify and to promote practical measures that are so vitally needed to achieve them. -

– Amb. Nobuyasu Abe
Former UN Undersecretary General for Disarmament Affairs
January 28, 2004
CCW Review Conference Adopts New Measure
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Wade Boese

Meeting December 11-21 in Geneva, states-parties to the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons (CCW) extended the accord’s provisions controlling and banning weapons deemed excessively injurious or indiscriminate to cover not only international conflicts but also intrastate warfare. But the 65 states-parties attending the treaty’s second review conference opted to put off final decisions on four other proposals topping the meeting’s agenda.

The extension of the accord’s reach to internal conflicts, however, will be limited because only states-parties, which currently number 88, that ratify the move will be bound by it. Twenty states-parties must ratify the extension before it can enter into force. Countries joining the CCW in the future will be presumed as agreeing to the accord’s extension to internal conflicts unless they state differently when ratifying the convention.

Currently, just one of the CCW’s four protocols—the amended protocol on mines, booby traps, and other devices—applies to internal conflicts. The protocols on incendiary weapons, blinding laser weapons, and nondetectable-fragment weapons do not. If future protocols are negotiated and added, states-parties noted they could be worded to accept, modify, or exclude the treaty’s applicability to internal conflicts.

States-parties did not reach the required consensus at the review conference to approve a U.S.-Danish proposal to add a new protocol restricting the use of anti-vehicle mines. A few countries, particularly China, expressed reservations about the proposal. Chinese Ambassador Sha Zukang told the conference on December 11 that Beijing sees anti-vehicle mines as “crucial and irreplaceable means of national defense” and that there is “no evidence” the use of such weapons “has led to serious humanitarian problems.”

The U.S.-Danish proposal does not rule out the use of anti-vehicle mines, except for those that are nondetectable, but it requires that any anti-vehicle mines remotely delivered, such as by planes or artillery, have self-destruct and backup self-deactivation mechanisms. Sha said that China and other developing countries would like to be able to produce such “smart” weapons but that they would not be able to handle the financial and technical hurdles of doing so “in the foreseeable future.”

As a compromise, the states-parties agreed to set up a group of governmental experts to meet three times over the coming year to explore the U.S.-Danish proposal further. The group of experts, which will be comprised of delegations from any state-party wishing to participate, will also discuss how to address the issue of unexploded ordnance leftover from conflicts. Diplomatic sources projected that the majority of time will likely be spent on the unexploded ordnance issue.

The review conference appointed coordinators to head the expert discussions on each of the two issues. These coordinators will report on the talks to a December 12-13 meeting of states-parties, which will be chaired by Indian Ambassador Rakesh Sood. If states-parties agree, the December 2002 meeting could be used to adopt a new protocol formally or to take additional action on an issue.

States-parties also agreed at the review conference to hold additional consultations on a number of proposed compliance mechanisms for the treaty and left the option open for countries to meet for discussions on a proposal to prohibit small caliber ammunition that can spin or ricochet once it enters a body, which causes excessive internal damage. The lack of formal consultations on the latter issue suggests that there is little support for the initiative at this time.