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Protocol Requires Nations to Clean Up Deadly Leftovers of War

Friday, 10 November 2006 Leave a comment Go to comments

An interesting email regarding what is happening worldwide…

Protocol Requires Nations to Clean Up Deadly Leftovers of War
Separate Treaty on Cluster Munitions Urged

(Geneva, November 10, 2006) – A law that will enter into force on
November 12 mandating that states clear their territory of explosive
remnants of war will help reduce civilian casualties following conflict, but
states should go further and agree to a treaty on cluster munitions, Human
Rights Watch said today.

States parties to the 1980 Convention on Conventional Weapons (CCW)
agreed to Protocol V on explosive remnants of war on November 28, 2003,
but the protocol needed to be ratified by 20 countries – which it achieved
earlier this year – before it could became binding international law.

In addition to making a state responsible for clearing all explosive
remnants of war in territory under its control, the protocol calls on states to
provide warnings, risk education and other measures to protect the civilian
population. Moreover, a state that uses weapons that leave behind
explosive remnants must provide assistance for clearance even if the
territory is not under its control, the protocol says.

“The protocol should reinforce the urgent need to clean up the deadly
leftovers of war,” said Steve Goose, director of Human Rights Watch’s
Arms Division. “But, because the text is so weak, the success of the
protocol will depend on aggressive and thorough implementation by

At the time the protocol was adopted in November 2003, Human Rights
Watch criticized both the weak language and the negotiators for failing to
directly address the dangers of cluster munitions.

Cluster Munitions

States parties now gathered in Geneva for the Third Review Conference of
the CCW (from November 7-17) are debating the possibility of regulating
cluster munitions. At a CCW meeting in September 2006, six of them
(Austria, Holy See, Ireland, Mexico, New Zealand and Sweden) asked that
states give consideration to a “legally binding instrument that addresses
the humanitarian concerns posed by cluster munitions.”

In the first three days of the review conference, 12 additional states
endorsed the proposal (Argentina, Costa Rica, Czech Republic, Denmark,
Germany, Hungary, Liechtenstein, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain and
Switzerland), and many others are signaling their intention to do so.

“We have reached a tipping point on cluster munitions,” said Goose. “It’s
no longer a small group of isolated states calling for a new treaty. Many
countries – realizing that negotiations not only should happen, but will
happen – want to be on board from the start.”

On the first day of the review conference, 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. The International Committee of the Red
Cross (ICRC) called on states not only “to immediately end the use of
inaccurate and unreliable cluster munitions,” but also to destroy their
stocks of such weapons. The ICRC also indicated its intention to hold an
expert meeting in early 2007 aimed at identifying the elements a treaty on
cluster munitions would need.

Belgium became the first country to ban cluster munitions in February
2006. Norway announced a moratorium on the use of cluster munitions in
June 2006, and in recent weeks has stated its willingness to take the lead
in international negotiations to prohibit cluster munitions. Parliamentary
initiatives to prohibit or restrict cluster munitions are under way in
numerous countries.

Human Rights Watch has for many years identified what steps should be
taken to minimize the harm cluster munitions cause to civilians. They
include: prohibiting the use of cluster munitions in or near populated areas;
prohibiting the use of cluster munitions with high dud rates; prohibiting
transfers of unreliable and inaccurate submunitions; and, destroying
stockpiles of unreliable and inaccurate submunitions. Even cluster
munitions with low dud rates in tests have been shown to perform
unreliably and inaccurately from a humanitarian perspective when used in
actual conflict situations. It is up to states to demonstrate conclusively that
any specific cluster munition is accurate and reliable enough to avoid
excessive harm to civilians.

Protocol V and Explosive Remnants of War

Explosive remnants of war include all types of explosive ordnance (such
as bombs, rockets, mortars, grenades and ammunition) that have been used
in an armed conflict but failed to explode as intended, thereby posing
ongoing dangers. Explosive remnants of war also include abandoned
explosive ordnance that have been left behind or dumped by a party to an
armed conflict.

Explosive remnants of war are currently found in more than 90 countries,
resulting in thousands of civilian casualties every year. Explosive
remnants not only pose lasting dangers to lives and limbs, they also
constitute long-term impediments to economic development.

Protocol V is replete with qualifiers and ambiguities, to the extent that its
key provisions could be considered voluntary. Instead of clear-cut
obligations, states are to undertake actions “where feasible,” “as soon as
feasible,” “where appropriate,” “to the maximum extent possible, “as far
as practicable,” when “in a position to do so,” and so forth. Moreover,
most provisions apply only to future wars and thus do not address the
problem of existing explosive remnants of war.

To date, 26 states have ratified CCW Protocol V. They include: Albania,
Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, El Salvador, Finland, France,
Germany, Holy See, India, Ireland, Liberia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania,
Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Nicaragua, Norway, Sierra Leone,
Slovakia, Sweden, Switzerland, Tajikistan, and Ukraine.

For more of Human Rights Watch’s work on cluster munitions, please
visit: http://www.hrw.org/doc/?t=arms_clusterbombs

Please help support the research that made this bulletin possible. In order
to protect our objectivity, Human Rights Watch does not accept funding from
any government. We depend entirely on the generosity of people like you.
To make a contribution, please visit https://donate.hrw.org/member

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