[JURIST] UN Under Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs Jan Egeland called Tuesday for a freeze on the use of controversial cluster munitions [FAS backgrounder; JURIST news archive] at the outset of the Third Review Conference [official website; US delegation website] in Geneva on the 1983 Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons [text; ACA backgrounder], which already bans or limits the use of incendiary weapons, mines and booby-traps, blinding laser weapons and other devices deemed to cause inhumane injuries. In a statement, Egeland said:
This freeze is essential until the international community puts in place effective legal instruments to address urgent humanitarian concerns about their use...Ultimately, as long as there is no effective ban, these weapons will continue to disproportionately affect civilians, maiming and killing women, children and other vulnerable groups. The states gathered for the Review Conference should commit to immediately freeze the use of cluster munitions and strengthen existing international humanitarian law.AFP has more. In anticipation of the same review conference, the International Committee of the Red Cross [advocacy website] made a similar call [press release] Monday based on the inefficiency of cluster weapons as a military tool and the high toll they take on the civilian population.
Rights organizations claim that both Israel and Hezbollah [JURIST reports] used cluster munitions in the recent Middle East conflict, and argue that the weapons should already be considered illegal [backgrounder] under multiple provisions of Protocol I [text] of the Geneva Conventions (1977). Russia and the US have to this point resisted explicit banning measures [JURIST report]. AP has more.