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Hopes high as cluster munitions ban comes into force


Video by Florence VILLEMINOT

Text by Perrine MOUTERDE

Latest update : 2010-08-01

An international treaty banning cluster munitions, which have killed nearly 500,000 people worldwide, comes into force on Sunday. Patrice Bouveret, director of a French disarmament NGO, tells France 24 what to expect.

Less than two years after is adoption in Oslo, the Convention on Cluster Munitions (CCM) goes into effect on Sunday. It prohibits the use, production, stockpiling and transfer of these weapons, and provides assistance to people who have been wounded by them.

These weapons kill and mutilate significant numbers of civilians since they tend to leave live explosives intact over large areas after their initial use.

Signed by 107 countries, the Convention has been ratified by 37 countries to date, including France. The United States, Israel, Russia and China, which keep stockpiles of cluster munitions and use them, did not sign it.

Patrice Bouveret, director of France's armaments observatory (
l'Observatoire des armaments), a French disarmament NGO that is a member of the Cluster Munition Coalition, is optimistic about the implementation of the treaty.

France 24:
Do you think the treaty banning cluster munitions, which takes effect on Sunday, will actually be implemented?

Patrice Bouveret: Based on what happened with the landmine treaty, yes, I do. After the landmine ban adoption in 1999, organisations continued their work to make sure it was applied, and to adopt a ban on cluster munitions as well. It was critical that states not be able to circumvent the landmines ban treaty by using cluster bombs – the two have similar effects!

Today, even non-signatory countries, such as the United States, have stopped using landmines. Last year we identified only two instances of use of these landmines, including one by a guerrilla group. Similarly, organisations should push the non-signatories of the cluster bomb ban treaty to also phase out their use.

Cluster munitions will not disappear on August 1, but one can hope that, like landmines, the situation will improve.

F24: The declared objective of the CCM treaty is to clear them from all territories within 10 years. Is this realistic?

P. B. : I'm not sure we can achieve this goal. The first years after the signing of a treaty, states certainly contribute to the implementation of a fairly large scale, but then, it is increasingly difficult to secure the necessary funds.
F24: The treaty also states that the signatory states must provide assistance to victims. What does this mean?

P. B.: This means they must develop outreach programmes to prevent new casualties in countries where they are still present. It also means they must create programmes to care for the wounded, especially in countries that lack national healthcare. This is a major advance in international law. This clause is not included in the treaty on landmines.

F24: Why has the United States refused to sign the two agreements?

P. B.: For years the US government said it would not adopt multilateral treaties, but that it would respect them. It does not want its hands tied though a commitment to the international community. But the Obama administration has initiated a debate on multilateralism. There is now a debate on this issue in the US, and we can expect that Washington will sign the landmine ban treaty relatively quickly, and then eventually the cluster bombs ban treaty.
F24: What is France’s position?

P.B.: Paris ratified the treaty quite quickly in 2008 and transposed it into national law. The law was adopted on July 6 since France wanted it in the books before the treaty went into effect. Cluster munitions are no longer used by the French military. France has not been a producer for a long time, but now it must dismantle its stockpiles.

This leads to the question of whether a dismantling plant for cluster bombs will be set up. For now, France doesn't have the industrial equipment necessary to do this.
Germany is the only European country with this capacity.


Date created : 2010-07-31