It has been two years since the international treaty banning cluster bombs became binding international law on 1 August 2010. As the international movement was preparing to celebrate the impressive achievements of the convention it received sad news from Serbia. Two young army deminers were killed in the morning of 1 August 2012 as they were attempting to clear cluster munitions used by the United States during NATO air strikes in 1999.
Neither the US nor Serbia have joined the Convention on Cluster Munitions. Commenting on the tragic incident, long-time campaigner Branislav Kapetanovic, a former Serbian army deminer who lost both hands and feet to a BLU 97 submunition on 9 November 2000, issued a powerful challenge to his government:
This tragedy requires urgent action. Do not allow new victims, do not delay clearance! Each cluster bomb left behind can cause an accident, and every stockpiled cluster bomb could one day be used. Only through their destruction and the total ban, can we help stop suffering in the future.
The Convention on Cluster Munitions seeks “to put an end for all time to the suffering and casualties caused by cluster munitions.” Yet Serbia and a number of other countries where cluster munitions have been used, such as Cambodia, Ethiopia, Sudan, Tajikistan, Thailand, and Vietnam, have not joined the convention despite observing at its meetings and expressing interest.
These states need to become part of the convention to receive support through the framework that it provides. While the convention is not retroactive, Article 4 affirms that past users that have joined the convention are “strongly encouraged” to provide assistance. Moreover, as Kapetanovic has noted, Serbia and other nations should join the convention as “a gesture of respect” to all cluster munition victims.
Two years on the Convention on Cluster Munition is making impressive strides for such a young instrument of international law. A total of 111 countries have joined and are making significant advances in implementing the convention’s provisions, including the requirement to declare and destroy stockpiled cluster munitions.
New Zealand is doing its part to support the humanitarian provisions of the Convention on Cluster Munitions. In July 2012, the government confirmed a donation of US $1.89 million to support the clearance of unexploded ordnance (UXO) in Lao PDR’s Xieng Khouang province, which remains heavily affected from cluster munition remnants and unexploded submunitions used by the US during the Indochina War.
For more information, see:
- Cluster Munition Coalition List of Events for 2nd Anniversary of Convention on Cluster Munitions
- Statement by Assistance Advocacy Access–Serbia