A new report says several states that have signed the international
treaty banning cluster munitions have started to destroy their
stockpiles even before the treaty comes into force. The report, titled
"Banning Cluster Munitions," was jointly produced by Human Rights Watch
and the group, Landmine Action.
The report shows the prohibition on cluster munitions is
firmly taking hold and more and more nations are joining the new
international treaty banning these weapons.
Authors of the
288-page report say there has been a major shift in global opinion
about cluster munitions in recent years. They say countries that
formerly used, produced, exported and stockpiled these weapons, now are
denouncing them as inhumane.
Steve Goose is Arms Division
Director of Human Rights Watch and final editor of the Report. He says
countries are beginning to implement provisions of the treaty even
before it comes into force. For instance, he says Spain became the
first country in March to destroy all of its stockpiles.
last month destroyed almost all of their stocks About a dozen other
countries are already underway," said Goose. "A number of which have
confirmed that they will be done in 2009. Austria, Belgium, and Norway
have all said they think they will be done in 2009. Germany has
already destroyed about a third of their stockpile. This is quite
Goose says this shows the determination of the
international community to deal urgently with the humanitarian dangers
posed by this weapon.
Brussels-based Handicap International
keeps count of the victims. Representative Stan Brabant says the
latest number of recorded, confirmed casualties is 13,306.
we estimate that the true number is in the tens of thousands," he said.
"We recorded casualties in about 30 countries. And, we keep recording
new casualties. Obviously, the human impact is long-term. It is not
just at the time of the use of the weapon. But, it is sometimes 40
years later as we see in south-east Asia now."
munitions can be fired by artillery and rocket systems or dropped by
aircraft. The bombs explode in the air scattering hundreds of tiny
sub-munitions on the ground. Those smaller bomblets often pose a
danger to civilians for years.
A total of 96 countries have signed the treaty. Thirty ratifications are needed to bring it into force six months later. Major holdouts include the United States, Russia, Israel and China. In a policy shift of its own, the United States agreed last year to ban most cluster munitions.
The Cluster Munitions Coalition believes
the Convention has created a new standard of behavior. It says
rejecting these weapons outright is a powerful deterrent, even to those
countries that haven't joined the treaty.