[JURIST] Diplomats reached an agreement Wednesday on a draft treaty [text, PDF] banning the use, manufacture, and stockpiling of cluster munitions [ICRC materials; JURIST news archive] following ten days of negotiation at the Dublin Diplomatic Conference on Cluster Munitions [official website]. The treaty forbids signatories from acting in a way that would assist, encourage, or induce "anyone to engage in any activity prohibited" under the treaty. Countries possessing cluster munitions would be required to destroy them, and to provide medical assistance, rehabilitation and psychological support to any victim of cluster munitions within their jurisdictions. While the US was not present at the conference, a loophole [HRW press release] was built into the treaty to allow continued military and other cooperation between parties and non-parties to the treaty. Article 21 of the treaty allows the military personnel and nationals of treaty signatories to engage in military cooperation and operations with non-signatory states which might engage in prohibited activities. The treaty will be formally adopted on Friday, signed into law in December, and then must be ratified by individual signatory nations. BBC News has more.
No representatives were sent to the conference from the US, China, Russia, Israel, India, or Pakistan, whose governments collectively make up the world's largest producers and users of cluster bombs. Last month the US said it would not attend the 2008 Dublin conference [JURIST report], echoing June 2007 statements that it does not support a ban on cluster bombs [JURIST report] but that it is open to negotiations to reduce their impact on civilians. Cluster bombs break apart, releasing large numbers of smaller, self-contained explosives which spread out before detonating upon impact. Their design aims to stop large-scale troop movements by maximizing bodily injury over a wide area. Bombs which fail to detonate can present a serious hazard for civilian populations. Strong supporters of the ban include the UK, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Canada, Japan, Mexico, and Australia. Earlier this month, Pope Benedict XVI urged [AFP report] all governments to adopt the ban. AFP has additional coverage.