Joint press release from Action on Armed Violence, Amnesty International UK, Article 36 and Oxfam.

Humanitarian concerns ignored as UN talks continue on cluster munitions

(London, 22 November 2011): Campaigners today called on the UK government to forcefully resist attempts by the United States and others to agree a law that would contradict the global ban on cluster munitions. These weapons are banned under the 2008 Convention on Cluster Munitions due to their indiscriminate nature and disproportionate impact on civilians. This week in Geneva at negotiations of the Convention on Conventional Weapons, certain countries not party to the ban treaty, such as the United States, Russia, China, India and Israel are trying to give themselves legal cover to continue to use the weapons.

Campaigners from Action on Armed Violence, Article 36, Amnesty International UK and Oxfam said the UK must resist the increasing pressure to push through this new law that would make it more likely that cluster munitions will be used, putting more civilian lives at risk.

They are supported by a public petition calling for governments to ensure the alignment of any new agreement with the existing ban under the Convention on Cluster Munitions and ensure this indiscriminate weapon continues to be comprehensively banned, and innocent lives protected. The petition gained over half a million signatures in just a few days. In the UK 53,537 people signed the petition, the fourth largest total for any country after Germany, France and Spain.

Thomas Nash, former Coordinator of the Cluster Munition Coalition and now Director of Article 36, which coordinates UK campaigning on cluster bombs, said: “This new draft protocol would make civilian suffering from cluster bombs more likely, not less. The UK was on the right side of history when it banned cluster bombs in 2008, now we need to make sure it is on the right side of history this week by helping prevent this unacceptable new law being adopted.

Anna Macdonald, Head of Control Arms at Oxfam International, said: “What is being proposed is a ‘cluster bombers’ pact’. UK Ministers told parliament before these talks that they would not support a lower standard that legitimizes cluster bombs. That political intervention was crucial and we will need more leadership from Ministers this week to resist US pressure 

Oliver Sprague, Arms Programme Director of Amnesty International UK, said: “The UK has quite rightly championed the total ban on cluster munitions. It must not now support cynical attempts by the US to undermine efforts to eradicate these deadly and indiscriminate weapons by agreeing to a new legal standard, which would allow them to keep and use millions of their existing stocks. To do so would damage any credibility the UK has on the world stage in placing human rights and the protection of civilians at the heart of its policy.”

The draft law, a proposed protocol to the Convention on Conventional Weapons (CCW), is being pushed as an alternative to the 2008 Convention on Cluster Munitions, which comprehensively bans all use, production, trade, and stockpiling of all cluster munitions. The United States is the main proponent of the draft law, and has support from others that have not yet joined the ban convention, such as China, India, Israel, and Russia.

After a week of talks demonstrated no consensus and strong opposition to the current proposal, the Chairman of the negotiations, French Ambassador Eric Danon, presented a new draft protocol.  The revised draft does not address the concerns of campaigners and humanitarian organisations. It still allows for the continued use, production and transfer of some of the worst cluster bombs ever used.

On Monday morning, as the revised draft was being discussed, Branislav Kapetanovic, a cluster bomb survivor and spokesperson for umbrella campaign group the Cluster Munition Coalition, handed a petition of 581,237 signatures to Ambassador Danon. The petition, launched by AVAAZ and the CMC, has been signed by citizens in almost every country.

ENDS

Contact:

Thomas Nash, Director, Article 36, mobile: +447711926730, email: thomas@article36.org  

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