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World report on cluster munitions

Human Rights Watch, Landmine Action e Landmine Monitor acaban de publicar un informe de 288 páxinas sobre as bombas de fragmentación (cluster bombs). Trata dos países que asinaron o acordo para a súa prohibición, daqueles que se opoñen e seguen a usalas, e daqueles que padecen os seus efectos. O informe leva por título “Banning Cluster Munitions: Government Policy and Practice”. Copio un extracto da súa introducción:

The period from 2006 until the end of 2008 saw dramatic changes in the positions of many governments on the military necessity and legality of cluster munitions. In a shift of international opinion, dozens of nations went from an adamant defense of the weapon to a full embrace of a comprehensive prohibition.

Initiated by the government of Norway in November 2006, the Oslo Process provided a fast-track multilateral response to the humanitarian problems posed by cluster munitions. A hallmark of the Oslo Process was the broad partnership between a range of actors —governments, key international organizations such as the ICRC and UN agencies, and civil society groups united under the Cluster Munition Coalition (CMC)— all working for the same goal.

The outcome of this process is the 2008 Convention on Cluster Munitions. The convention combines categorical prohibitions on the use, production, stockpiling, and transfer of cluster munitions, with obligations to assist cluster munition victims, clear contaminated land, and provide international support for these humanitarian objectives. It was negotiated and adopted by 107 nations in Dublin in May 2008, and opened for signature in Oslo on 3 December 2008. As of April 2009, a total of 96 governments had signed the convention, and six had ratified.

This report charts the development of government policy and practice with respect to banning cluster munitions in the lead up to and during the Oslo Process. This introduction provides an overview of the Oslo Process and serves as a background to key —and often contentious— issues that appeared during the development of the convention. This introduction does not seek to provide a comprehensive account, but serves to support the country sections that are the basis of this report.

Cluster Munitions

Cluster munitions are weapons that scatter explosive submunitions across a wide area. Dropped from aircraft or fired from the ground, a container munition opens in the air and releases the smaller submunitions to explode across the area below. The number of submunitions packed into a container range from fewer than ten to many hundreds.

Cluster munitions have been singled out for criticism on the basis of two problematic characteristics. Due to the way in which they scatter many small submunitions, these weapons have a tendency to strike both military and civilian populations and objects when used near populated areas. Furthermore, cluster munitions have consistently left large numbers of submunitions unexploded, but still dangerous, in the post-conflict environment. Often compared to antipersonnel mines, these unexploded submunitions have impeded access to community resources and caused death and injury to civilians long after conflict has ceased.

History of the Humanitarian Response

Humanitarian concerns have been raised about cluster munitions since the 1960s, and the 1970s saw the first government-backed proposals for a prohibition. These unsuccessful efforts were primarily a response to the widespread use of cluster munitions in Southeast Asia. The proponents of a ban at that time did not know that unexploded submunitions from these cluster munitions would still be killing and injuring civilians in Lao PDR, Vietnam, and Cambodia more than four decades later.

In 1999, the use of cluster bombs by NATO in the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia —particularly in Kosovo and Serbia— caused civilian casualties at the time of use and afterwards, rekindling international concern over these weapons. This took place in the wake of the 1997 Mine Ban Treaty and as a community of humanitarian actors was developing and expanding the mine action sector. In the period that followed, on-the-ground research from Human Rights Watch, Landmine Action, the Mennonite Central Committee, Handicap International, and the ICRC provided an important basis for efforts to change state policies and practices.

Spurred largely by concerns about cluster munitions, the ICRC and other NGOs pressed governments to take up the issue of explosive remnants of war (ERW) in the Convention on Conventional Weapons (CCW). At a December 1999 CCW meeting, Human Rights Watch first called for a global moratorium on the use of all cluster munitions. From 2000–2003, CCW States Parties initially discussed and then negotiated on the issue of ERW.

Large-scale use of cluster munitions in Afghanistan in 2001–2002 and in Iraq in 2003 deepened the recognition of the humanitarian and legal problems posed by these weapons. In Afghanistan, the United States dropped some 248,000 submunitions causing dozens of avoidable civilian casualties, including more than 120 in the first year after the strikes. In Iraq, Human Rights Watch concluded that two million submunitions used by the US and United Kingdom caused hundreds of civilian casualties during the 2003 invasion, more than any other weapon (other than small arms fire).

In response to these developments, NGOs involved in the landmine ban movement met in Ireland in April 2003 and agreed to undertake sustained and coordinated campaigning against cluster munitions. On 13 November 2003, the CMC was launched in The Hague. The CMC was united behind a call for an immediate moratorium on the use of cluster munitions, an acknowledgement of states’ responsibility for the explosive remnants they cause, and a commitment to provide resources to areas affected by ERW.

On 28 November 2003, States Parties to the CCW adopted Protocol V on Explosive Remnants of War. This protocol reinforced the principle that states bear a responsibility for the post-conflict harm caused by their weapons, but it was insufficient for tackling the specific challenges caused by cluster munitions both during and after attacks.

From 2004–2006, the CMC continued to press for meaningful work on cluster munitions in the CCW, but with only minimal progress, as most States Parties were still against anything more than technical discussions on the weapon as part of broader talks on ERW. The CMC also pushed for measures at the national level, and results were more encouraging. Most notably, Belgium in February 2006 became the first country to pass legislation banning cluster munitions, and Norway declared a moratorium on use in June 2006. For its part, the CMC continued to expand in size and strength, particularly with the decision of the International Campaign to Ban Landmines (ICBL) to join the CMC and work on cluster munitions.

Against this background, Israel’s massive use of cluster munitions in south Lebanon in July and August 2006 provoked a moral outcry. According the UN, Israel fired some four million submunitions into Lebanon leaving behind as many as one million duds. A massive clearance operation was required, supported by risk education and victim assistance. As well as being part of this practical response, CMC organizations were able to rapidly document the impact of these weapons on individuals and communities, which stood in stark contrast to the arguements offered by many governments that existing legal rules were sufficient.

Israel’s use of cluster munitions in Lebanon provided a catalyst for diplomatic action, starting in the CCW. The CCW’s Third Review Conference in November 2006 was viewed as a critical test of its ability to address a pressing humanitarian issue. In his message to the conference, then UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan issued a statement calling for a “freeze” on the use of cluster munitions in populated areas and the destruction of “inaccurate and unreliable” cluster munitions. Twenty-six nations supported a proposal for a mandate to negotiate a legally-binding instrument “that addresses the humanitarian concerns posed by cluster munitions.” After the proposal was rejected, 25 countries issued a joint declaration calling for an agreement that would prohibit the use of cluster munitions “within concentrations of civilians,” prohibit the use of cluster munitions that “pose serious humanitarian hazards because they are for example unreliable and/or inaccurate,” and require destruction of stockpiles of such cluster munitions.

On 17 November 2006, the final day of the Review Conference, Norway announced that it would start an independent process outside the CCW to negotiate a cluster munition treaty and invited other governments to join, thus initiating what became known as the Oslo Process. That same day Norway’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Jonas Gahr Støre announced that Norway would convene an international conference to launch the process, stating, “We must take advantage of the political will now evident in many countries to prohibit cluster munitions that cause unacceptable humanitarian harm. The time is ripe to establish broad cooperation on a concerted effort to achieve a ban.” The CCW had failed a crucial test. Far from agreeing to negotiate a legally-binding instrument, it opted to continue general discussions on ERW, with the US, Russia and others strongly opposing any specific work toward new rules regarding cluster munitions. […]

Enlaces sobre minas e bombas de fragmentación:

1 Xuño 2009 - Posted by | Human Rights, Human Rights Watch, Landmines, Politics

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