Cluster munition convention signed


THE GOVERNMENT has signed and ratified a convention banning the use, production and stockpiling of cluster bombs. Minister for Justice Dermot Ahern yesterday signed the treaty on behalf of Ireland at a ceremony in Oslo. He said the convention, which has been signed by more than 100 countries, signalled a major international move against the production and use of the weapons.

The treaty prohibits the use, production, transfer and stockpiling of cluster bombs. Signatory nations pledge to clear affected areas within 10 years, declare and destroy stockpiled cluster munitions within eight years, assist affected countries with clearance, and provide comprehensive assistance to victims of the munitions. The treaty will take effect after 30 nations have signed and ratified it.

Norway's prime minister, Jens Stoltenberg, called for an end to the misery caused by cluster munitions. Mr Stoltenberg, who spent his youth in the Balkans, commended the bravery of people such as Branislaw Kapetanovic (41) from Belgrade, who lost both his arms and legs to cluster bombs during the Yugoslav wars.

Norway's minister of foreign affairs, Jonas Gahr Støre, called the treaty a "strong legal instrument which will create massive change and take away the huge market from the producers and place humanitarian disarmament at the centre of international affairs". He was also hopeful Barack Obama's presidency might lead to a change of attitude to cluster munitions in the US.

Amnesty International Ireland director Colm O'Gorman paid tribute to Ireland's role in brokering the treaty during a conference held in Croke Park in May. The resulting treaty was the "culmination of two weeks of intense negotiations under Ireland's commendable leadership", he said.

Human Rights Watch hailed the ban as "the most significant arms control and humanitarian treaty" in a decade. "The treaty will save countless lives by stigmatising a weapon that kills civilians even after the fighting ends," said Steve Goose of Human Rights Watch.