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Cluster Munition Coalition Newsletter March 2011

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Portugal, Mozambique and Lithuania raise the number of ratifications to 55

The Portuguese Republic, the Republic of Mozambique and the Republic of Lithuania ratified the Convention on Cluster Munitions on 9, 14 and 24 March 2011 respectively, raising the number of ratifications to 55. For all three, the treaty will enter into force nationally on 1 September 2011 when they will become States Parties fully bound by the Convention’s provisions. This means more than half of the 108 signatory states to the Convention have now ratified. With Portugal and Lithuania being members of both NATO and the EU, both bodies now have more than half of their members’ party to the Convention on Cluster Munitions.

Portugal, Mozambique and Lithuania all signed the Convention on 3 December 2008 and all participated in the Oslo process. Portugal has stockpiled cluster munitions in the past but completed destruction of its BL-755 weapons in July 2010. Lithuania is not believed to possess a stockpile and has stated that it has never used, produced or transferred cluster munitions. Unexploded cluster submunitions have been found in some locations in Mozambique over the years though it is not known to what extent the county has been contaminated.

To read more information on these three ratifications visit: Portugal: http://www.stopclustermunitions.org/news/?id=3063 Mozambique: http://www.stopclustermunitions.org/news/?id=3070 Lithuania: http://www.stopclustermunitions.org/news/?id=3103

Cluster Munition Coalition raises concerns over CCW draft protocol

A number of Cluster Munition Coalition campaigners attended the year’s second session of the Convention on Conventional Weapons (CCW) Group of Governmental Experts (GGE) which took place in Geneva from 28 March – 1 April 2011 where States Party to the CCW gathered to discuss a draft protocol (CCW/GGE/2011-II/2) on cluster munitions and its submission for adoption as a legal instrument at the Review Conference in November.

Although the mandate given to the GGE is “to address urgently the humanitarian impact of cluster munitions…” the text developed so far would mean weaker protection for civilians in the future. There are two main concerns that this draft Protocol might mean weaker protection for civilians:

Firstly, the Protocol may facilitate the use of cluster munitions by serving as a shield against the political cost and stigma that results from these weapons already being subject to a comprehensive prohibition in international law (the 2008 Convention on Cluster Munitions). Further, since the Protocol is weaker than the national standards that certain stockpilers not party to the Convention on Cluster Munitions, such as the US, already have in place, its adoption could be used as a basis for relaxing these national commitments.

Secondly, by setting a precedent in international law for new instruments that are weaker than established legal protections, this would break with the long-standing tradition of international humanitarian law (IHL) as a progressive effort to protect people from the scourge of war. Such a precedent could be taken up not only for other weapon systems but also for other practices that are considered abhorrent.

A number of pro-Convention on Cluster Munitions states, in particular Austria, Mexico, and Norway, spoke out over the course of the week to challenge the humanitarian impact of the current protocol and its compatibility with the standards set by the Convention on Cluster Munitions.

However, a number of States Parties to the Convention on Cluster Munitions, including France, the UK, and Germany, along with Australia and Ireland in their respective roles as Friends of the Chair, continued to engage in CCW deal-making behavior and appeared to be working actively towards the achievement of a protocol in November which, as currently drafted, would anticipate and even facilitate the future use of cluster munitions banned by the Convention on Cluster Munitions.

The Cluster Munition Coalition called on the CCW to drop this proposal, and call an end to negotiations in November at the Review Conference. Over the years, the CCW has proven it is not capable of adequately addressing this issue with the urgency with which it ought to be dealt, while in stark contrast, the Convention on Cluster Munitions has already entered into force and is already making clear progress to address the deadly impact of cluster munitions.

A new text of the draft protocol will be prepared and distributed by the Chair for consideration in advance of the third session which will take place in August.

To read more about the Cluster Munition Coalitions activities at the CCW in March visit: http://www.stopclustermunitions.org/news/?id=3108