ACTION GROUP - Press release ' For a world free of cluster munitions

At conference of signatory states, NGOs to demand sustainable victim support programmes and warn against the legalisation of cluster munitions in the frame of the UN's Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons. Photo: Cluster bomb produced by NESCOM (Pakistan) and advertised at the IDEX weapons fair in 2007.


Berlin, 5th November 2010: Representatives of 112 governments are meeting in Vientiane, Laos, under the slogan of "For a world free of cluster munitions" for the first conference of states party to the Cluster Munitions Convention (the Oslo Convention). At the conference, the fundamental details of the implementation of the Convention will be developed and agreed upon. The United Nations and the International Committee of the Red Cross will also take part in the conference, as will the Cluster Munitions Coalition and victims' organisations. Up to now, 43 states have ratified the Convention; however, China, India, Israel, Russia and the USA, as well as seven EU member states and eight members of NATO (including Poland and Greece) are not yet party to the agreement.

The goal of the Convention, which is a binding piece of international law, is a complete ban on cluster munitions, and contains provisions for the destruction of all such weapons within eight years. Comprehensive humanitarian commitments with regard to victim support and the clearance of unexploded submunitions are also included. Up to the end of 2009, there were 16,816 verifiable victims of cluster munitions. As many cases go unreported, the actual figure is estimated to be approximately 85,000. The German Federal Government adds that the number of victims of landmines, explosive remnants of war and cluster munitions in developing countries cannot be accurately assessed thanks to poor reporting practices. One hundred accidents were reported in 2009, which points to a downwards trend and suggests that aid programmes are working effectively. In 2010, the German Federal Government made €17.3 million available for the purposes of ordnance clearance and victim support. Further financial support came from the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development and the European Union.

In the past six decades, cluster munitions have been deployed in 39 countries and regions. Twenty-three countries are still affected by unexploded submunitions, Laos and Lebanon especially so. After the Convention was signed in December 2008, only one case of their deployment has been reported (though not confirmed) ' the weapons were allegedly used by the USA in Yemen.

The total number of cluster munitions in the stockpiles of 74 countries is thought to be in excess of 1 billion. The German Army had stocks of more than 50 million cluster munitions, which will be destroyed in the next five years ' ahead of the time limit imposed by the Convention. Fifteen former producers of cluster munitions, including Germany, have since signed the Convention. Seventeen states still produce the banned weapons, or reserve the right to resume doing so in the future. These include the USA, Russia, China, Brazil, Israel and South Korea. In Europe, cluster munitions continue to be produced and sold in Poland, Greece, Romania and Slovakia.

Action Group considers that the need for clarification of the ambiguous paragraph 1c of the Convention should be addressed at the conference in Laos. "Article 1c outlaws any support of the production of cluster munitions," said Thomas Küchenmeister, the Director of the Action Group. "We consider this to mean that investment in the production of the weapons, as well as in producers, is also forbidden," said Küchenmeister, referring to the legal opinion of the research service of the German Bundestag. Belgium, Ireland, Luxembourg and New Zealand have already enshrined the ban on investing in cluster munitions producers into law, and parliamentary initiatives to do the same are already underway in Denmark, the Netherlands, Norway and Switzerland.

"Now that the Convention banning cluster munitions has been signed, our duty is now to apply pressure to bring about the implementation of all of the humanitarian commitments which it provides for," added François de Keersmaeker, the director of Handicap International. "For especially badly afflicted countries like Laos and Vietnam, we simply need more funds for victim support and munitions clearance," added Marion Gnanko of Solidaritätsdienst International (SODI).
Against the backdrop of the diplomatic activity currently being carried out within the scope of the UN's Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons, the Action Group is warning against any backdoor attempts to legalise the use of cluster munitions again. "All states party to the Oslo Convention must take a clear position against attempts to establish a second international legal standard beneath the Convention," demanded Thomas Küchenmeister of Action Group, calling on states party to the Convention to unite themselves against such attempts.

Action Group is a member of the Cluster Munition Coalition (CMC), as well as of the International Campaign to Ban Landmines (ICBL). In 1997, the ICBL was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for its role in bringing about the Mine Ban Treaty (Ottawa Convention). In May 2009, the Action Group, as a member organisation of the CMC, was awarded the prestigious Tipperary International Peace Award, whose previous recipients include Mikhail Gorbachev and Nelson Mandela. The Action Group was also awarded the Wilhelm Dröscher Prize in 2009, and the Henry Mathews Prize in September 2010.

Further information and conference documents are available at With assistance from the German Federal Foreign Ministry, the Action Group has produced a DVD together with its sponsoring organisation SODI. The DVD, "Bye Bye Bombies", gives information about the German role in the process of banning cluster munitions and about aid programmes in Laos and Vietnam and will be presented during the conference. The Foreign Ministry is also supporting the presence of German NGOs at the conference.

For more information contact Thomas Küchenmeister, Director of Action Group on +49 1754 964082, or Dr Eva Maria Fischer on +49 1755 429899 or +49 8954 760613.
On location in Laos: François de Keersmaeker, Director of Handicap International Deutschland, +856 20 96131563, or Marion Gnanko, SODI e. V., +856 21 244284.

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