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ORIGINAL FRENCH ARTICLE: Un traité contre les bombes à sous-munitions

by Damien Roustel

Treaty to ban cluster bombs

Translated Sunday 14 December 2008, by Sarah Wood

Norway. Around a hundred countries met in Oslo to ban the use of cluster munitions, the scourge of civilians.

A major breakthrough. Just over 10 ten years after the adoption of the Ottawa Treaty in 1997, which banned the use of anti-personnel mines, around a hundred countries have come together in Oslo and signed a treaty against cluster munitions. Particularly deadly for the civilian population, cluster munitions are bombs that can contain hundreds of smaller bomblets. Dispersed over a vast area, these smaller bombs don’t always explode and, in effect, become anti-personnel mines. According to Handicap International, approximately 100,000 people worldwide have been killed or maimed in submunition explosions since 1965, of which 98% are civilians. Of the victims, it has been recorded that at least a quarter were children, drawn in by the shapes and colours of these lethal devices. Between 1964 and 1973, the United States of America dropped 260 million submunitions on Laos, the most contaminated country on the planet.

“This is the biggest Humanitarian Treaty of the last decade”, declared Richard Moyes, co-president of the Cluster Munitions Coalition (CMC), the organisation bringing together almost 300 NGOs. "This is a historic day as a majority of States commit to banning cluster munitions, creating a new international standard that will make a significant difference for thousands and thousands of people", commented the Norwegian Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Stoere.

The agreement prohibits the manufacture, use, stockpiling and trading of these weapons. It also requires the signatories to come to the aid of the victims of cluster munitions. The agreement was negotiated in Dublin, in May. France, Great Britain, Germany and Canada are all to sign. Amongst the most notable absentees are the USA and Russia, the biggest manufacturers of cluster munitions in the world. “Of course, the treaty would be a stronger tool if the USA, Russia, China, Israel, Pakistan and India were taking part, but we will already be depriving the manufacturers of a large part of their market”, acknowledged the Norwegian Minister for Foreign Affairs. To come into force the treaty must be ratified by at least thirty States. This objective could be reached by the beginning of 2009. The position of the future President of the United States of America, Barack Obama, is keenly anticipated.

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