[JURIST] Peter Herby, head of the Arms Unit of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) [official website], expressed hope Wednesday that text of a treaty to ban the use of cluster bombs [ICRC materials; JURIST news archive] could be approved at a conference in Dublin in May and signed by most countries within the year, even if the world's leading producers of cluster bombs - the United States, Russia and China - do not join the pact. A week-long meeting of parties to the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons (CCW) [PDF text] last November concluded [JURIST report] without delegates reaching an agreement on a legally binding ban on cluster munitions. Representatives from 102 nations did agree to negotiate a new pact regarding "the humanitarian impact of cluster munitions," but failed to agree on a complete ban. Reuters has more.
Cluster munitions have been used by at least 23 countries; at least 34 nations have produced more than 200 different types of cluster munitions. In June, the US said it will not support a cluster munitions ban [JURIST report] but that it is open to negotiations to reduce the humanitarian impact by requiring the increased reliability, accuracy and visibility of unexploded munitions. In February, 46 of 49 countries participating in the two-day Oslo Conference on Cluster Munitions agreed to an action plan to develop a new international treaty [press release] to ban the use of cluster munitions by 2008. Romania, Poland and Japan refused to sign the Oslo Declaration [PDF text]. The United States, Russia, Israel, and China chose not to attend the conference. Cluster munitions 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 [ICRC materials].