[JURIST] The Convention on Cluster Munitions (CCM) [text; official website] banning the use of most such weapons was opened for signature Wednesday at a conference [official website] in Oslo, Norway. More than 100 countries adopted the convention [JURIST report] in May at a meeting in Dublin, Ireland. Several major users of cluster munitions, including the US, Russia, and China, have not adopted the convention and will not be signing. A spokesperson for the US State Department said [press release] Tuesday, "…a general ban on cluster munitions will put the lives of our military men and women, and those of our coalition partners, at risk." Supporters of the ban have praised the convention as a major development that will stigmatize the use of the weapons. Jakob Kellenberger, president of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) [advocacy website] said [press release] that "we have forever changed how cluster munitions will be seen by States, by the public and by history."
Cluster bombs break apart, releasing large numbers of smaller, self-contained explosives which spread out before detonating upon impact. Their design aims to stop large-scale troop movements by maximizing bodily injury over a wide area. Bombs that fail to detonate can present a serious hazard for civilian populations. Strong supporters of the ban include the UK, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Canada, Japan, Mexico, and Australia. In May, Pope Benedict XVI urged [AFP report] all governments to adopt the ban. Although the US did not adopt the ban, claiming it would impede humanitarian efforts [JURIST report] by discouraging cooperation with non-signatories, it did adopt a formal policy [text, PDF] on cluster munitions in June "intended to minimize the potential unintended harm to civilians and civilian infrastructure."
~12/4/08: 93 nations have signed the convention.