Although again unable to reach agreement on a new protocol addressing cluster munitions in 2010, states-parties to the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons (CCW), meeting last November in
Spurred by the controversial use of cluster munitions during the 2006 Israeli-Lebanese conflict, the international community concluded the Convention on Cluster Munitions (CCM) and saw it enter into force in 2010, banning the use of treaty-defined cluster bombs. A CCW group of governmental experts also has sought an accord to address the humanitarian impacts of the weapons. (See ACT, December 2009.)
The CCW, which entered into force in 1983, now has 114 parties and contains five protocols that encompass, in order, weapons with fragments undetectable by x-rays, landmines and booby traps, incendiary weapons, blinding lasers, and explosive remnants of war. Cluster munitions are bombs, rockets, and artillery shells that disperse smaller submunitions over broad areas that sometimes strike civilians or fail to explode initially, later injuring or killing military forces and noncombatants. Although cluster munitions fall under the definition of Protocol V on explosive remnants of war, the inadequacies of that protocol to address cluster munitions have contributed to the call for a cluster munitions-specific Protocol VI.
Forty-nine countries have ratified the CCM and 108 have signed, including more than two-thirds of NATO members, but
The definition of cluster munitions remains one of the key differences between the CCW and the CCM. Under the CCM, cluster-like weapons are excluded and therefore not limited by the treaty if they have explosive submunitions meeting all of the following characteristics: fewer than 10 in number and each with a weight of more than four kilograms and less than 20 kilograms, designed to detect and engage a single target and equipped with an electronic self-destruct mechanism and an electronic self-deactivating feature. A draft CCW protocol presented by the group’s chair also would exclude those weapons. It also would exclude those that fail to explode as intended 1 percent or less of the time, which matches
That draft CCW protocol, which will “inform” this year’s meetings, includes a ban on the use and transfer of some cluster munitions produced before 1980.
For many states supportive of the CCM, the draft CCW protocol is not acceptable. At the November 2010 meeting of CCW parties, German delegate Hellmut Hoffmann said that “the latest draft protocol…pays a lot of attention towards military considerations but unfortunately has very little humanitarian effect on the ground.” He added, “[T]he current-draft protocol before us is not the solution for the mandate we have given ourselves,” citing as one reason the differing definitions between the CCW draft and the CCM. Instead,
At their yearly meetings, CCW members adopt a mandate for the group of governmental experts for the coming year. As in previous years, the countries did not include a comprehensive transfer ban in the official mandate for 2011. They did agree to identify their work as being on a “protocol,” in part due to Canadian insistence. In past years,
This may be the last year the CCW grapples with a cluster munitions-specific protocol. Australian delegation head Peter Woolcott said Nov. 25, “[T]his negotiation has occupied us for a number of years and cannot continue indefinitely.” The upcoming review conference, which is to meet Nov. 14-25, “will be a natural time to conclude these negotiations,” he said.
The CCW group of governmental experts, to be led again by 2010 chair Jesus Domingo of the
Incendiary Weapons Amendment
During the November meeting, the international NGO Human Rights Watch and the Harvard Law School International Human Rights Clinic presented a memo calling for amendment of CCW Protocol III, which deals with incendiary weapons.
That protocol was the source of some controversy last year when 17 states objected to a
Although delegates did not raise the
The use of those weapons has been controversial. Because they also serve a marking and illumination purpose, some states have argued that white phosphorus weapons are not covered by the protocol, which addresses weapons that are “primarily designed” to set fire to objects or cause burn injuries.
In the Dec. 23 e-mail, Khanna defended