[JURIST] The Convention on Cluster Munitions (CCM) [text; official website] officially went into effect on Sunday as binding international law. The CCM bans the use, stockpiling, production and transfer of cluster bombs, weapons that break apart, releasing large numbers of smaller, self-contained explosives which spread out before detonating on impact. Unexploded components that fail to detonate present a serious hazard to civilians, especially children [Al Jazeera report]. Since its adoption [JURIST report] in May 2008, 107 countries have signed the treaty and 37 countries have ratified it. The treaty also calls for stockpiles of the bombs to be destroyed within eight years and land contaminated with undetonated bombs to be cleared within 10 years. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon [official website] praised the treaty [UN press release] and the fact that it went into effect so quickly after its adoption.
I am particularly pleased that the Convention...enters into force in little more than two years since its adoption. This highlights not only the world's collective revulsion at these abhorrent weapons, but also the power of collaboration among Governments, civil society and the United Nations to change attitudes and policies on a threat faced by all humankind.Amnesty International (AI) and other rights groups are calling on governments [press release] that have not signed the treaty to do so. Norway and Moldova destroyed their stockpiles of the weapons within the past few weeks and the United Kingdom recently began destroying its stockpile. The United States is not a signatory and currently has the world's largest stockpile of cluster munitions.
The CCM was officially opened for signature [JURIST report] in December 2008 at a conference in Oslo, Norway. Supporters of the cluster munitions ban include the UK, Spain, France, Germany, Italy, Canada, Japan, Mexico and Australia. The US claims that a ban would impede humanitarian efforts [JURIST report] by discouraging cooperation with non-signatories, but adopted a new policy [text, PDF] in June 2008 intended to "provide better protection of civilians and civilian infrastructure following a conflict, while allowing for the retention of a legitimate and useful weapon". Commentators anticipate that the next milestone [JURIST comment] in the eradication of the weapons is the First Meeting of States Parties [official website], which will be held in November in Lao PDR (formerly Laos), the southeast Asian country that is the most heavily contaminated by cluster munitions.