[JURIST] Belgium [JURIST news archive] has become the first country to criminalize investment in companies that make cluster bombs [JURIST news archive; FAS backgrounder]. Legislation passed the Belgian Senate [official website] on Thursday, and the Parliament plans to publish a list of companies that manufacture cluster munitions. Belgian banks KBC and Fortis [corporate websites] have already terminated their investments in such companies, and KBC has published its own list of manufacturers. The new law will prohibit Belgian banks from owning shares in cluster bomb manufacturers or offering them credit.
Last week, 46 countries pledged to develop a new international treaty [JURIST report; Norwegian government press release] to ban the use of cluster bombs by 2008 at the Oslo Conference on Cluster Munitions [conference materials]. Last year, Belgium was the first country to ban cluster bombs [JURIST report]. Although the US did not attend the Oslo conference, top Democratic lawmakers recently introduced a bill [JURIST report] in the US Senate that would ban federal funds for the use, sale or transfer of cluster bombs. Cluster munitions, which have been used by at least 23 countries, are considered by many to be inaccurate weapons designed to spread damage indiscriminately and could therefore be considered illegal [CMC backgrounder] under multiple provisions of Protocol I [text] of the Geneva Conventions (1977). Reuters has more. Indymedia has local coverage.