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"No one can solve this problem alone, but together we can change things for the better." 

– Setsuko Thurlow
Hiroshima Survivor
June 6, 2016
Landmines / Cluster Munitions

Mine Ban Nears 20th Anniversary

 

With the Mine Ban Treaty approaching its 20th anniversary in March, delegates to the annual meeting of states-parties in November welcomed progress on many treaty requirements and again “condemned the use of anti-personnel mines by any actor” as they reaffirmed their “aspiration to meet the goals of the [treaty] to the fullest extent possible by 2025.”

A fighter with Yemen’s Tariq Salah forces, a militia aligned with the Saudi-backed government, shows landmines reportedly found in September at an outpost of the Houthi rebels.  (Photo: Andrew Renneisen/Getty Images)According to the “Landmine Monitor” report, only one country could be confirmed to have used landmines in the previous year, which was Myanmar, a state not among the 164 parties to the treaty. Nonstate armed groups used mines in at least eight countries, frequently employing improvised devices, according to a report from the International Campaign to Ban Landmines released just prior to the Nov. 26–30 meeting in Geneva. For the third year in a row, the report also identified atypically high numbers of casualties due to landmines, cluster munition remnants, and other remnants of war. Of 7,239 casualties recorded in 2017, more than 4,200 occurred in Afghanistan and Syria, and more than 2,700 casualties worldwide were due to improvised mines.

The November meeting celebrated declarations from Mauritania that it had completed landmine clearance and from Oman that it had finished destroying its landmine stockpile, steps required under the treaty. The report also noted that international support to efforts to prevent and address problems due to mines reached a record $670 million in 2017.—JEFF ABRAMSON

Mine Ban Nears 20th Anniversary

Cluster Munitions Ban Marks Progress


October 2018
By Jeff Abramson

Delegates of states-parties to the Convention on Cluster Munitions, meeting Sept. 3–5 in Geneva, once again condemned any use of the weapons and celebrated successes in the decade since the treaty opened for signature.

Human Rights Watch has said there is evidence that Sudan dropped cluster bombs on civilian areas of Southern Kordofan’s Nuba Mountains in February and March 2015. (Photo: Human Rights Watch)The annual meeting ended a half day early without controversy as states welcomed the March accession of Sri Lanka and Aug. 31 ratification by Namibia, which will become the 104th state-party when the treaty enters into force for it in February. Conference President Carlos Morales Dávila, Nicaragua’s deputy permanent representative to the UN and other international organizations in Geneva, also congratulated Croatia, Cuba, Slovenia, and Spain for reporting completion of the destruction of their cluster munition stockpiles.

Research published by the Landmine and Cluster Munition Monitor program before the meeting found that 99 percent of stocks declared by states-parties had already been destroyed, a collective total of 1.4 million cluster munitions and more than 177 million submunitions. Under the treaty, states have eight years to destroy their cluster munitions. Thus far, no state has missed its deadline.

As it documented beginning in 2012, the program reported ongoing use of cluster munitions by the Syrian government. Fewer incidents were confirmed in 2018, however, likely a result of difficulty in obtaining information and a change in the Syrian civil war as governmental forces recaptured more territory. Fewer casualties from such munitions were cited, with 187 recorded in 2017 in Syria, down from 860 in 2016, although the report said the total was certainly higher “as available data does not capture all the casualties that occurred.”

The report also identified cluster munitions use in Yemen during the latter half of 2017 by the Saudi Arabia-led coalition fighting the Houthi, with such use beginning in 2015. None of the countries involved in the use of cluster munitions in that conflict are parties to the treaty.

As in prior years, states-parties adopted a final report that “condemned any use by any actor” of cluster munitions.

In a video message, Izumi Nakamitsu, UN high representative for disarmament affairs, called the convention an example of “disarmament that saves lives.” She said that the treaty has “had a concrete impact on the ground,” lauding stockpile destruction efforts and progress on clearance of contaminated land. According to the Landmine and Cluster Munition Monitor, at least 93 square kilometers of contaminated land were cleared in 2017 and at least 153,000 submunitions destroyed, an increase of 6 percent and 9 percent, respectively, from 2016.

More than a dozen nonsignatories to the treaty attended the meeting, but the United States continued its approach of not attending. Although it is the world’s largest financial contributor to land clearance efforts, Washington insists that cluster munitions remain relevant military tools. In November 2017, the United States altered a policy that was to take effect at the end of this year barring the use of cluster munitions that result in a more than 1 percent unexploded ordnance rate. (See ACT, January/February 2018.)

Next year’s meeting of states-parties is planned for Sept. 2–4 in Geneva, to be led by Aliyar Lebbe Abdul Azeez, Sri Lankan ambassador to the UN Office and other international organizations in Geneva. In 2020, Sabrina Dallafior Matter, the Swiss ambassador to the Conference on Disarmament, will preside over the treaty’s second review conference.

Four more countries complete elimination, as states-parties increase to 104.

Mine Ban Membership Grows

January/February 2018
By Jeff Abramson

The Mine Ban Treaty added two new members in December, as the convention marked 20 years since it was opened for signature. During their annual meeting, states-parties welcomed progress and addressed rising casualties, while reasserting a collective goal to meet the treaty’s obligations to the fullest extent possible by 2025.

Rohingya refugee Rashida Begum stands next to her son in a Bangladeshi hospital as he is treated September 30, 2017, after being injured by a landmine while fleeing Myanmar. (Photo: MUNIR UZ ZAMAN/AFP/Getty Images)Sri Lanka acceded to the treaty Dec. 13, five days before the Dec. 18-21 meeting of states-parties held in Vienna. The Palestinian delegation announced its intention to accede as a states-party during the meeting, completing the process Dec. 29. The treaty will enter into force for both on June 1, bringing the convention to 164 states-parties.

At the meeting, delegations reacted to a report that casualties from landmines, cluster munition remnants, and other remnants of war had risen to at least 8,605 in 2016, the second year of sharp increases from the 3,993 casualties identified in 2014. The 2016 toll was near the number recorded in 1999, when the treaty entered into force. Much of the increase was due to mines used in armed conflicts in countries such as Afghanistan, Libya, Ukraine, and Yemen, according to the annual “Landmine Monitor” report. The International Campaign to Ban Landmines, a civil society coalition, released the report just prior to the meeting.

The use of landmines by armed forces in Myanmar along border crossings with Bangladesh and the resulting harm to fleeing Rohingya civilians drew international attention and outcry in 2017. The report identified Myanmar and Syria, neither of which is party to the treaty, as the only countries where it could be confirmed that government forces used landmines in the year prior to the meeting. Nonstate armed groups were responsible for much of the new use of mines, often improvised devices, in at least nine countries. Certain victim-activated improvised explosive devices are considered to fall under the treaty’s definition of anti-personnel landmines, which detonate due to “the presence, proximity or contact of a person.”

In response, delegates adopted a final report that again condemned any use of landmines. “On the 20th anniversary, there is no time for complacency,” said Austria’s Thomas Hajnoczi, who served as president of the meeting.

Approximately 60 countries have landmine contamination, more than half of which are states-parties to the treaty. During the meeting, delegates welcomed a declaration from Algeria that it had completed clearance, and they granted extension requests to five countries. Under the treaty, states have 10 years to clear contamination, but extensions are possible. The meeting also welcomed a declaration from Belarus that it had completely destroyed its stockpile of landmines, after it had missed its four-year deadline in 2008. In total, states-parties have destroyed more than 53 million anti-personnel landmines.

The United States, not party to the treaty, again attended the meeting as an observer as it has done since 2009. During the meeting, Steve Costner, deputy director of the Office of Weapons Removal and Abatement at the U.S. State Department and head of the U.S. delegation confirmed to Arms Control Today that the U.S. landmine policy has remained unchanged. That policy, announced in 2014, disavowed production and acquisition of landmines prohibited by the treaty, permits their use only on the Korean peninsula, and set a goal to “ultimately comply with and accede” to the treaty. (See ACT, October 2014)

Suraya Dalil, Afghanistan’s ambassador to Switzerland and the United Nations in Geneva, will preside over the 2018 meeting, scheduled for Nov. 26-30 in Geneva. In concluding his statement, Hajnoczi said that “given the remaining challenges, redoubling our efforts to fulfill the aspiration is imperative to achieve a world free of anti-personnel mines by 2025.”

The Mine Ban Treaty added two new members in December, as the convention marked 20 years since it was opened for signature

U.S. Undoes Cluster Munitions Ban

In a policy shift, the United States removed a ban on the use of most of its cluster munitions inventory that was to take effect at the end of 2018. A Nov. 30 memo signed by Deputy Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan revised a 2008 policy that called for completely phasing out the possible use of cluster munitions that fail to operate as intended more than 1 percent of the time.

The new policy keeps those weapons in active U.S. stocks until the “capabilities they provide are replaced with enhanced and more reliable munitions.” How that might occur remains unclear. The last U.S. manufacturer who produced cluster munitions that Washington claims meet the 1 percent threshold stopped making them in 2016 and does not intend to renew production, according to The New York Times. The United States stopped buying new cluster munitions for its military in 2007 and, except for a single strike in Yemen in 2009, has not used them since early 2003.

Cluster munitions are bombs, rockets, and artillery shells that disperse explosive submunitions over wide areas. Many submunitions fail to detonate as designed, leaving explosive remnants that later injure or kill civilians. More than 100 countries are states-parties to the Convention on Cluster Munitions, which bans the use of the weapons. At the latest convention meeting, treaty members, which include a majority of NATO countries and many U.S. allies such as Australia and Japan, renewed their condemnation of any use. (See ACT, October 2017.)

The new policy retained the previous policy’s requirement for a combatant commander to authorize the use of cluster munitions that would have been phased out. Sens. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), who in April 2017 introduced legislation that would have barred the use of such weapons, criticized the new policy. “It’s a shame the United States will continue to be a global outlier in using these unreliable and dangerous weapons, and I call on the president to reverse course and reinstate the 2008 policy,” Feinstein said.

Although the policy memo did not list specific places where cluster munitions would be needed, Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) on Dec. 4 said the administration made a “prudent decision to preserve cluster munitions to deter North Korean aggression.”—JEFF ABRAMSON

U.S. Undoes Cluster Munitions Ban

The Ottawa Convention: Signatories and States-Parties

January 2018

Contact: Daryl Kimball, Executive Director, (202) 463-8270 x107

Updated: January 2018

The Ottawa Convention, also referred to as the "Mine Ban Treaty," prohibits the use, stockpiling, production, and transfer of anti-personnel landmines (APLs). It requires states-parties to destroy their stockpiled APLs within four years and eliminate all APL holdings, including mines currently planted in the soil, within 10 years. Countries may request a renewable extension, which can be up to 10 years long, to fulfill their destruction obligations. States-parties are also required annually to report to the UN secretary-general their total APL stockpiles, the technical characteristics of their APLs, the location of all mined areas, and the status of APL destruction programs.

The convention, which is of unlimited duration and open to all nations, entered into force March 1, 1999. As of January 2018, 164 countries (including Palestine) had ratified or acceded to the treaty, and one country, the Marshall Islands, has signed the accord but not ratified it. States-parties overwhelmingly come from Europe, Africa, and Latin America and the Caribbean. About half of the countries in the Middle East and North Africa, as well as the Asia-Pacific regions have signed the treaty. For more information about the treaty, see “The Ottawa Convention at a Glance.”

Some key current and past producers and users of landmines, including the United States, China, India, Pakistan, and Russia, have not signed the treaty. The George W. Bush administration announced Feb. 27, 2004 that the United States would not join the Ottawa Convention. The Barack Obama administration changed that policy in 2014, expressing an intention to eventually join, and banning the production and acquisition of APLs and reserving their use for only on the Korean peninsula.  The United States is party to the 1996 amended mines protocol of the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons, which restricts but does not ban APL use.  

A precise accounting of the number of landmines planted globally is not possible. The International Campaign to Ban Landmines, a coalition of non-government organizations active in some 100 countries, has estimated that 61 states and areas have landmines on their territories as of November 2017.

The following is a complete list of all Ottawa Convention signatories and states-parties:

Country

Signature

Deposit

Afghanistan

 

9/11/02

Albania

9/8/98

2/29/00

Algeria

12/3/97

10/9/01

Andorra

12/3/97

6/29/98

Angola

12/4/97

7/5/02

Antigua & Barbuda

12/3/97

5/3/99

Argentina

12/4/97

9/14/99

Australia

12/3/97

1/14/99

Austria

12/3/97

6/29/98

Bahamas

12/3/97

7/31/98

Bangladesh

5/7/98

9/6/00

Barbados

12/3/97

1/26/99

Belarus

 

9/03/03

Belgium

12/3/97

9/4/98

Belize

2/27/98

4/23/98

Benin

12/3/97

9/25/98

Bhutan

 

8/18/05

Bolivia

12/3/97

6/9/98

Bosnia and Herzegovina

12/3/97

9/8/98

Botswana

12/3/97

3/1/00

Brazil

12/3/97

4/30/99

Brunei Darussalam

12/4/97

4/24/06

Bulgaria

12/3/97

9/4/98

Burkina Faso

12/3/97

9/16/98

Burundi

12/3/97

10/22/03

Cambodia

12/3/97

7/28/99

Cameroon

12/3/97

9/19/02

Canada

12/3/97

12/3/97

Cape Verde

12/4/97

5/14/01

Central African Republic

 

11/8/02

Chad

7/6/98

5/6/99

Chile

12/3/97

9/10/01

Colombia

12/3/97

9/6/00

Comoros

 

9/19/02

Congo

 

5/4/01

Cook Islands

12/3/97

3/15/06

Costa Rica

12/3/97

3/17/99

Cote d'Ivoire

12/3/97

6/30/00

Croatia

12/4/97

5/20/98

Cyprus

12/4/97

1/17/03

Czech Republic

12/3/97

10/26/99

Democratic Republic of Congo

 

5/2/02

Denmark

12/4/97

6/8/98

Djibouti

12/3/97

5/18/98

Dominica

12/3/97

3/26/99

Dominican Republic

12/3/97

6/30/00

Ecuador

12/4/97

4/29/99

El Salvador

12/4/97

1/27/99

Equatorial Guinea

 

9/16/98

Eriitrea

 

8/27/01

Estonia

 

5/12/04

Ethiopia

12/3/97

12/17/04

Fiji

12/3/97

6/10/98

Finland

 

1/09/12

France

12/3/97

7/23/98

Gabon

12/3/97

9/8/00

Gambia

12/4/97

9/23/02

Germany

12/3/97

7/23/98

Ghana

12/4/97

6/30/00

Greece

12/3/97

9/25/03

Grenada

12/3/97

8/19/98

Guatemala

12/3/97

3/26/99

Guinea

12/4/97

10/8/98

Guinea-Bissau

12/3/97

5/22/01

Guyana

12/4/97

8/5/03

Haiti

12/3/97

2/15/06

Holy See

12/4/97

2/17/98

Honduras

12/3/97

9/24/98

Hungary

12/3/97

4/6/98

Iceland

12/4/97

5/5/99

Indonesia

12/4/97

2/20/07

Iraq

 

8/15/07

Ireland

12/3/97

12/3/97

Italy

12/3/97

4/23/99

Jamaica

12/3/97

7/17/98

Japan

12/3/97

9/30/98

Jordan

8/11/98

11/13/98

Kenya

12/5/97

1/23/01

Kiribati

 

9/7/00

Kuwait

 

7/31/07

Latvia

 

7/1/05

Lesotho

12/4/97

12/2/98

Liberia

 

12/23/99

Liechtenstein

12/3/97

10/5/99

Lithuania

2/26/99

5/12/03

Luxembourg

12/4/97

6/14/99

Macedonia, FYR

 

9/9/98

Madagascar

12/4/97

9/16/99

Malawi

12/4/97

8/13/98

Malaysia

12/3/97

4/22/99

Maldives

10/1/98

9/7/00

Mali

12/3/97

6/2/98

Malta

12/4/97

5/7/01

Marshall Islands

12/4/97

 

Mauritania

12/3/97

7/21/00

Mauritius

12/3/97

12/3/97

Mexico

12/3/97

6/9/98

Moldova

12/3/97

9/8/00

Monaco

12/4/97

11/17/98

Montenegro

 

10/23/06

Mozambique

12/3/97

8/25/98

Namibia

12/3/97

9/21/98

Nauru

 

8/7/00

Netherlands

12/3/97

4/12/99

New Zealand

12/3/97

1/27/99

Nicaragua

12/4/97

11/30/98

Niger

12/4/97

3/23/99

Nigeria

 

9/27/01

Niue

12/3/97

4/15/98

Norway

12/3/97

7/9/98

Oman

 

8/20/14

Palau

 

11/19/07

Palestine

 

12/29/17

Panama

12/4/97

10/7/98

Papua New Guinea

 

6/28/04

Paraguay

12/3/97

11/13/98

Peru

12/3/97

6/17/98

Philippines

12/3/97

2/15/00

Poland

12/4/97

12/27/12

Portugal

12/3/97

2/19/99

Qatar

12/4/97

10/13/98

Romania

12/3/97

11/30/00

Rwanda

12/3/97

6/8/00

St. Kitts & Nevis

12/3/97

12/2/98

St. Lucia

12/3/97

4/13/99

St. Vincent & the Grenadines

12/3/97

8/1/01

Samoa

12/3/97

7/23/98

San Marino

12/3/97

3/18/98

Sao Tome & Principe

4/30/98

3/31/03

Senegal

12/3/97

9/24/98

Serbia & Montenegro

 

9/18/03

Seychelles

12/4/97

6/2/00

Sierra Leone

7/29/98

4/25/01

Slovakia

12/3/97

2/25/99

Slovenia

12/3/97

10/27/98

Solomon Islands

12/4/97

1/26/99

Somalia

 

4/16/12

South Africa

12/3/97

6/26/98

South Sudan

 

11/11/11

Spain

12/3/97

1/19/99

Sri Lanka

 

12/13/17

Sudan

12/4/97

10/13/03

Suriname

12/4/97

5/23/02

Swaziland

12/4/97

12/22/98

Sweden

12/4/97

11/30/98

Switzerland

12/3/97

3/24/98

Tajikistan

 

10/12/99

Tanzania

12/3/97

11/13/00

Thailand

12/3/97

11/27/98

Timor Leste

 

5/7/03

Togo

12/4/97

3/9/00

Trinidad & Tobago

12/4/97

4/27/98

Tunisia

12/4/97

7/9/99

Turkey

 

9/25/03

Turkmenistan

12/3/97

1/19/98

Tuvalu

 

9/13/11

Uganda

12/3/97

2/25/99

Ukraine

2/24/99

12/27/05

United Kingdom

12/3/97

7/31/98

Uruguay

12/3/97

6/7/01

Vanuatu

12/4/97

9/16/05

Venezuela

12/3/97

4/14/99

Yemen

12/4/97

9/1/98

Zambia

12/12/97

2/23/01

Zimbabwe

12/3/97

6/18/98

Updated by Sara Schmitt

Conventional Arms Issues

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The Ottawa Convention at a Glance

January 2018

Contact: Daryl Kimball, Executive Director, (202) 463-8270 x107

Updated: January 2018

The Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Anti-Personnel Mines and on Their Destruction, typically referred to as the "Ottawa Convention" or "Mine Ban Treaty," seeks to end the use of anti-personnel landmines (APLs) worldwide. It was opened for signature on December 3, 1997, and it entered into force on March 1, 1999.

As of January 2018, 164 states are party to the treaty, including Palestine.  One country, the Marshall Islands, has signed but not ratified it.  There are 34 non-signatories, including major powers such as the United States, Russia, and China. Few countries in key regions of tension, namely the Middle East and South Asia, have opted to participate. For more information on signatories and states-parties to the treaty, see: “The Ottawa Convention: Signatories and States-Parties.”

Because of the treaty, international norms have now formed that discourage any country, signatory or not, from using mines.  Many non-signatories are in de facto compliance with the Ottawa Convention by refusing to use landmines and committing to voluntary destruction of stockpiles. Non-state armed groups continue to use mines, in particular improvised landmines (improvised explosive devices [IEDs] that meet the definition of banned APLs) in about 10 countries per year.  (Millions of mines are estimated to be planted in the ground in 61 countries and disputed areas.

Global APL stockpiles are thought to be around 50 million mines, down from earlier estimates of about 100 million. Some of the countries that suffer the most from the humanitarian impacts of landmines include Afghanistan, Angola, Cambodia, Chad, and Iraq.

The Obama administration undertook a review of its policy towards the Ottawa Convention and in 2014 expressed an intention to eventually accede to the treaty. US policy now bans the production and acquisition of APLs as well use of the weapons outside of the Korean Peninsula.

Prohibitions: States-parties commit to not using, developing, producing, acquiring, retaining, stockpiling, or transferring anti-personnel landmines, which are defined by the treaty as mines "designed to be exploded by the presence, proximity or contact of a person and that will incapacitate, injure or kill one or more persons." APLs that are remotely triggered, such as claymores, are not proscribed, nor are anti-vehicle mines, including those equipped with anti-handling devices, which are designed to protect anti-vehicles mines from being tampered with or moved.  The treaty also forbids signatories from assisting or encouraging any other state or party from engaging in the activities outlawed by the treaty.

APL Destruction and Clearance: Each state-party is expected to destroy all APLs stockpiled in arsenals, except those retained for demining training, within four years of becoming bound by the treaty. Collectively, states parties have destroyed more than 50 million stockpiled landmines, with only five states, at most, still to complete destruction. Greece and Ukraine missed their deadlines to complete stockpile destruction.

Within 10 years of its entry into force date, each country is required to destroy all APLs under its jurisdiction and control, including those planted in the soil. A country may request renewable extensions of up to 10 years to complete this clearance task. A majority of participants at a meeting of states-parties or review conference must approve an extension request. Many states have sought and received extensions and more than 25 countries have completed clearance of all mined areas.  

Cooperation and Assistance: The treaty calls on any state-party "in a position to do so" to assist other states-parties in aiding mine victims, providing demining assistance, and helping with mine destruction. States-parties are expected to be as helpful as possible in making sure all states-parties have access to equipment, material, and scientific and technological information for implementing the treaty without "undue restrictions."

Transparency: Each state-party is to provide the United Nations with a comprehensive report on the numbers, types, and locations of all APLs under its control as well as the status of all programs for destroying APLs. An initial report is required 180 days after the treaty becomes legally binding for each state-party, and thereafter reports are expected annually by April 30.

Compliance: The treaty did not create an implementation or verification body or outline punitive measures for noncompliance. A state-party may question the compliance of another state-party, and a special meeting of states-parties can be convened to address the allegation. States-parties can establish a fact-finding mission to investigate the alleged noncompliance and, if necessary, call on the state-party in question to address the compliance issue.

Amendment and Withdrawal: Treaty amendments can be proposed, and then approved by two-thirds of all states-parties attending a special amendment conference. A state-party may withdraw from the treaty six months after submitting an instrument of withdrawal, though it will not take effect if the country is engaged in armed conflict.

Updated by Sara Schmitt

Conventional Arms Issues

Fact Sheet Categories:

Cluster Munitions at a Glance

December 2017

Contact: Daryl Kimball, Executive Director, (202) 463-8270 x107

Updated: December 2017

Cluster munitions, also called cluster bombs or CBUs, are gravity bombs, artillery shells, and rockets that fragment into small bomblets or grenades. Some cluster munitions disperse only two bomblets while others can spread up to hundreds of submunitions over a large area. These weapons are designed for use against massed formations of troops and armor or broad targets, such as airfields. Cluster submunitions, however, sometimes fail to explode on impact and can kill or maim civilians who later come into contact with them. These unexploded submunitions may remain dangerous for decades. According to Cluster Munition Monitor 2017, at least 21,200 cluster munition casualties have been confirmed globally since the 1990s. About 17,291 came from unexploded submunitions, and about 3,983 from strikes. Estimated totals, however, are considered much higher, and according to the Monitor, “are likely a better indicator of the true numbers.” Estimates for a global total range from 58,000 to 85,000. Almost all reported cluster munition casualties have been civilians, in large part because of the unwillingness of militaries to provide information.

Cluster munitions have been used during armed conflict in 40 countries and four disputed territories since the end of World War II. Almost every part of the world has experienced cluster munition use at some point over the past 70 years, including Southeast Asia, Southeast Europe, the Caucasus, the Middle East and North Africa, Sub-Saharan Africa, and Latin America. Although cluster munitions first saw use in World War II and more than 50 countries have since acquired stockpiles of such arms, efforts to regulate or ban the use of cluster munitions gained greater attention and momentum after the summer 2006 war between Israel and Hezbollah, a Shiite organization that the United States identifies as a terrorist group. Israel’s extensive cluster munitions use in the last 72 hours of that conflict resulted in an estimated one million unexploded bomblets scattered across southern Lebanon, arousing some strong condemnation. Jan Egeland, then-UN Undersecretary General for Humanitarian Affairs, blasted Israel’s use of cluster munitions as “shocking and completely immoral.”

Convention on Cluster Munitions

The Convention on Certain Conventional Munitions (CCW) did not restrict the use of cluster munitions. Although a group of states initially sought to establish a new protocol banning cluster munitions in the CCW, years of negotiations in the consensus-based forum failed to produce such a protocol. Frustrated with the slow-moving CCW approach, Norway at the November 2006 review conference announced an alternative effort to negotiate a treaty on cluster munitions. The inaugural meeting of that effort convened February 2007 in Oslo. Of the 49 governments attending the conference, 46 ultimately signed the “Oslo Declaration” to “conclude, by 2008, a legally binding instrument that will…prohibit the use, production, transfer, and stockpiling of cluster munitions that cause unacceptable harm to civilians.”

Much of the debate among participating governments over the treaty centered on two issues. The first was whether future use restrictions would take effect immediately or, as Germany argued, be phased in to allow time for the development of alternative weapons. The second was whether the treaty should outlaw all cluster munitions or permit some exemptions for certain types or for their use in certain circumstances. Sweden called for a treaty balancing “legitimate humanitarian and military interests,” while the United Kingdom sought exemptions for systems equipped with self-destruct or self-deactivation devices that are supposed to render unexploded munitions harmless after a short period of time. Other countries, such as Norway, Ireland, and Mexico, favored a total ban.

On May 30, 2008 the Dublin Diplomatic Conference on Cluster Munitions adopted a comprehensive new treaty banning cluster munitions. The 107 states adopted the treaty. The Convention on Cluster Munitions (CCM) is a legally binding international treaty that prohibits the use, production, stockpiling and transfer of cluster munitions and requires clearance of remnants and destruction of stocks. It requires states to provide assistance to survivors and their communities and builds on existing international human rights and humanitarian law. The treaty requires states to destroy existing stockpiles within eight years and to clear contaminated land within 10 years. The obligations relating to victim assistance were groundbreaking; they demanded the full realization of the rights of people affected by cluster munitions and require states to implement effective victim assistance measures. 

The Convention on Cluster Munitions was signed by 94 countries at the Oslo Signing Conference in December 2008, and entered into force on August 1, 2010, after 30 states ratified it by February 16, 2010. In November 2010, the First Meeting of States Parties to the Convention on Cluster Munitions (1MSP) took place in Vientiane, Lao PDR. After holding their First Meeting of States Parties in Lao PDR in November 2010, states parties convened in Lebanon, another highly contaminated country, for the convention’s Second Meeting of States Parties on September 12–16, 2011. At the meeting, states parties adopted the Beirut Progress Report, charting implementation of the Vientiane Action Plan, which guides the work of the convention through to its First Review Conference in 2015.

Status of the 2008 Convention on Cluster Munitions

A total of 102 states have ratified or acceded to the Convention on Cluster Munitions to become full states-parties as of 1 August 2017, and 17 states that have signed have yet to ratify. States-parties include former producers and users of cluster munitions such as France, Germany, the Netherlands, and the United Kingdom (UK). Since the convention entered into force on August 1, 2010, becoming binding international law, states can no longer sign, but must instead accede.

A total of 53 signatories have ratified the convention since August 2010, including countries where cluster munitions have been used (Afghanistan and Mauritania), former cluster munition producers (Italy, Sweden, and Switzerland), and countries that have stockpiled cluster munitions (Afghanistan, Côte d’Ivoire, Czech Republic, Honduras, Hungary, Italy, Mauritania, Sweden, and Switzerland). 

Unilateral restrictions on use

Several states that have not joined the Convention on Cluster Munitions have imposed restrictions on the possible future use of cluster munitions. Romania has said it restricts the use of cluster munitions to use exclusively on its own territory. Poland has said it would use cluster munitions for defensive purposes only, and does not intend to use them outside its own territory. Estonia and Finland have made similar declarations. During the CCW negotiations on cluster munitions, several states that have not signed or ratified the Convention on Cluster Munitions publicly stated that they were prepared to accept a ban on the use of cluster munitions produced before 1980 as part of the proposed CCW protocol, including Russia, China, India, and South Korea. The CMC urges that as an interim measure toward joining the Convention on Cluster Munitions, these states should institute the commitment made at CCW as national policy. 

U.S. Cluster Munitions Policy

In June 2008, the U.S. Department of Defense released a directive requiring that any U.S. use of cluster munitions before 2018 that results in a one percent or higher unexploded ordnance (UXO) rate—which includes all but a tiny fraction of the US arsenal—must be approved by a “Combatant Commander,” a very high-ranking military official and that after 2018, the United States would no longer use cluster munitions that result in more than one percent UXO.

However, in a Defense Department memorandum circulated on November 30, 2017, the Trump administration eliminated the 2019 deadline to stop using cluster munitions resulting in more than one percent UXO but retained the requirement for Combatant Commander authorization for their use.

The United States is a producer and exporter of cluster bombs. In 2011, the United States reported that it possessed more than 6 million cluster munitions. In 2001, the United States adopted a policy that all cluster munitions produced domestically after late 2004 must have submunitions with failure rates of less than one percent. As with all U.S. arms exports, transfers of cluster munitions are governed by conditions restricting their re-transfer and use by importers.

One such agreement applies to U.S. cluster munitions shipped to Israel. Although secret, the agreement is generally understood to prohibit the use of cluster munitions in populated areas and against targets that are not clearly military. Following the 2006 conflict in Lebanon, the Department of State’s Office of Defense Trade Controls opened an investigation into whether Israel had violated the agreement. State Department spokesperson Sean McCormack said that the preliminary report, delivered to the president and Congress in January 2007, found that “there likely could have been some violations.” The United States sanctioned Israel for misusing cluster munitions in the past. The Ronald Reagan administration suspended cluster munitions sales to Israel between 1982 and 1988 following Israel’s widespread use of such arms during an earlier invasion of Lebanon.

While as recently as 2006, the United States opposed negotiating a protocol on cluster munitions at CCW review conferences, in 2007, it changed its position. Ronald Bettauer, head of the U.S. delegation, attributed the reversal “to the importance of this issue, concerns raised by other countries, and our own concerns about the humanitarian implications of these weapons.” Department of State Legal Adviser Harold Koh stated November 9, 2009, that the United States has determined that it’s “national security interests cannot be fully ensured consistent with the terms” of the CCM but that “the United States remains committed to negotiate a legally binding Protocol on Cluster Munitions in the CCW.”

Research Assistance by Daria Medvedeva

 
Conventional Arms Issues

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States Condemn Cluster Munitions Use


October 2017
By Jeff Abramson

Reacting to the ongoing civilian toll from cluster munitions use in Syria and elsewhere, states-parties to the treaty banning cluster munitions at their annual meeting in Geneva renewed their condemnation of “any use” of such indiscriminate weapons.

A Syrian man shows a cluster bomb, that releases or ejects smaller submunitions, in the northern Syrian town of Taftanaz, in the Idlib province, on November 9, 2012. (Photo credit: Philippe Desmazes/AFP/Getty Images)Research published by the Landmine and Cluster Munition Monitor before the annual meeting of states-parties to the Convention on Cluster Munitions (CCM) identified use of cluster munitions by Syrian forces in joint operations with Russia that had resulted in at least 837 casualties during attacks in 2016. Syria is not a signatory to the treaty, which prohibits all use, stockpiling, production, and transfer of such weapons.

“This meeting is taking place against the backdrop of alarming reports of the toll on civilians caused by the use of cluster munitions in current armed conflicts,” Izumi Nakamitsu, UN high representative for disarmament affairs, said in prepared remarks, which were presented by a spokesperson, Anja Kaspersen, at the Sept. 4 opening session of the three-day meeting. Although absent from a draft report on the conference, states-parties added language similar to previous meetings that “condemned any use by any actor” in their final report.

Aside from Syria, at least another 20 casualties were recorded in Yemen in 2016 during Saudi-led coalition attacks. All told, the report identified at least 971 cluster munition casualties in 2016, more than double the 417 recorded in 2015. The count includes casualties in a total of 10 countries due to cluster munition remnants that exploded after their initial combat use, in some cases decades later. This continues to occur in Laos, where the United States dropped hundreds of millions of submunitions in the 1960s and 1970s during the Vietnam War. The report identified 51 casualties there in 2016.

Since the 2016 annual meeting, Benin and Madagascar have ratified the treaty, bringing the accord to 102 states-
parties and 17 signatories. On Sept. 5, Jurkuch Barach Jurkuch, head of the South Sudanese delegation, announced that his country had decided to accede to the CCM and the Chemical Weapons Convention, where it would become the 166th state-party.

The United States, which is not party to the cluster munitions convention, did not attend the annual meeting. No cluster munitions appear to be part of any military sales under consideration by the United States, including the notional $110 billion arms deal with Saudi Arabia announced by President Donald Trump in March, and there are no indications of U.S. use of cluster munitions since 2009. In 2016 the last manufacturer of cluster munitions in the United States announced it was ceasing production of the weapons. (See ACT, October 2016.) —JEFF ABRAMSON

The civilian toll grows in Syria, Yemen. 

Anti-Landmine Efforts Draw Funding

May 2017
By Danielle Preskitt

The United Kingdom marked the International Day of Mine Awareness and Assistance with a pledge of 100 million pounds ($125 million) over three years to support landmine clearance projects in Afghanistan, Cambodia, Somalia, and South Sudan. Prince Harry said the action by the UK government extends the legacy of his late mother, Princess Diana, who drew attention to the “horrific and indiscriminate impact of landmines.” Harry is supporting the campaign to rid the world of landmines by 2025. “Even if the world decided tomorrow to ban these weapons, this terrible legacy of mines already in the earth would continue to plague the poor nations of the globe,” he said in an April 4 speech quoting her in London.

Prince Harry attends the Landmine Free World 2025 reception on International Mine Awareness Day April 4 in London. Credit: John Phillips/Getty ImagesThe UK is not alone in making further commitments to mine-action funding this year. Switzerland promised $3.5 million through 2019 for projects in Cambodia. Japan donated approximately $7.5 million for UN Mine Action Service projects in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Iraq, Somalia, South Sudan, and Sudan. Canada pledged $5.8 million for anti-mine work in Iraq, Sri Lanka, and Ukraine. The Netherlands promised $2.1 million to train demining teams in Syria. Mexico donated $1 million to support work in Colombia. The United States, the largest funder, provided about $119 million in 2015, according to the Landmine Monitor, which found that total international funding declined from about $500 million in 2012 to $352 million in 2015.

Anti-Landmine Efforts Draw Funding 

Cluster Munitions Used in Syria, Yemen

April 2017

Military forces in Syria and Yemen continue to use inter-nationally banned cluster munitions, according to international investigators. Aleppo is “contaminated with significant quantities of unexploded ordnance” from cluster munitions used during the Syrian-Russian joint offensive to retake governmental control of the city in 2016, according to a March 14 report by an investigative body established by the UN Human Rights Council.

In Yemen, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch cited continued cluster munition use by the Saudi-led military coalition, documenting at least four civilians were injured by Brazilian-made cluster munitions during separate attacks in February that hit residential areas and farmland. Despite U.S. efforts to convince the Saudi government to improve its conduct in Yemen, “we get flooded with reports” that they are “not getting better,” Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) said at a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing March 9. In December 2016, a coalition spokesperson said it would stop using UK-made BL-755 cluster munitions, which had been supplied before London joined the Convention on Cluster Munitions (CCM) in 2008. In May 2016, the United States suspended cluster munitions transfers to the Saudis.

Last year, CCM states-parties condemned any cluster munition use, specifically mentioning Syria and Yemen. (See ACT, October 2016.) Although Brazil, Russia, the United States, Saudi Arabia, Syria, and many other Middle Eastern countries are not party to the convention, the treaty has 100 states-parties and does establish international law banning the use of the weapons. There is no evidence of U.S. use of cluster munitions in its recent operations in Syria or Yemen.

Military forces in Syria and Yemen continue to use inter-nationally banned cluster munitions, according to investigators.

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