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The 2008 Convention on Cluster Munitions was adopted by 107 states on 30 May 2008 at a specially convened diplomatic conference. The Convention entered into force on 1 August 2010. For the current list of states parties to the Convention click here.
Under the Convention, states parties must never under any circumstances use, develop, produce, acquire, stockpile, retain, or transfer cluster munitions, as defined under Articles 1 and 2. They are also generally prohibited from assisting, encouraging, or inducing anyone to undertake any activity prohibited by its provisions.
Each state party is required — within eight years of becoming a party to the Convention — to destroy all stockpiled cluster munitions under its jurisdiction and control. This deadline can be extended for an additional four years and further extensions of four years may also be granted in exceptional circumstances by either a Meeting of States Parties or a Review Conference. States may retain a limited number of cluster munitions and explosive submunitions for the development of and training in detection, clearance, or destruction techniques, or for the development of cluster munition counter-measures.
Each state party must also clear its own territory or other territory it controls of cluster munition remnants (abandoned cluster munitions, failed cluster munitions, or unexploded submunitions or bomblets) within 10 years of becoming party to the Convention. If unable to do so, a state party may request extensions from a Meeting of States Parties or a Review Conference for additional periods of up to five years at a time.
Detailed provisions are included on assistance for victims. Each state party that has cluster munition victims on its own or other territory under its control must provide for their medical care and physical rehabilitation, psychological support, and social and economic inclusion. Not only those who are killed or injured by cluster munitions are defined as ‘cluster munition victims’; the term also extends to families and communities that have suffered socio-economic or other harm.
The 2008 Convention on Cluster Munitions sets out mechanisms and obligations to promote its effective implementation.
Under Article 9, each state party is obliged to take all appropriate legal, administrative, and other measures to implement the Convention. This includes the imposition of penal sanctions to prevent and suppress violations by persons, or on territory under the State’s jurisdiction or control. This means that domestic legislation may need to be adopted and regulations governing the armed forces amended.
Under Article 7 of the Convention, states parties are required to report annually to the UN Secretary-General on a range of matters, such as the types and numbers of cluster munitions destroyed, the extent and the location of areas contaminated by cluster munitions, the status of clearance programmes, the measures taken to provide risk education and warnings to civilians, the status of programmes for providing assistance to victims, and the measures taken domestically to prevent and suppress violations of the Convention.
Annual Meetings of states parties are held in accordance with Article 11 of the Convention on Cluster Munitions to review the adherence to, and implementation of, the Convention. Concerns about compliance by a state party may be considered during such meetings. The First Meeting of States Parties was held in Vientiane, the Lao People’s Democratic Republic in November 2010. The Second Meeting of States Parties was held in Beirut, Lebanon in September 2011. The Third Meeting of States Parties was held in Oslo, Norway in September 2012. The Fourth Meeting of States Parties is due to be held on 10–13 September 2013 in Lusaka, Zambia.
Every five years, a review conference is expected to be convened in accordance with Article 12. The First Review Conference is due to take place in 2015.
In any dispute involving two or more States Parties, efforts must be made to settle the issue by negotiation or other peaceful means of their choice, such as referring the matter to the International Court of Justice in accordance with the Court’s statute.
Article 21, which deals with relations between States Parties and States not party, was particularly controversial during the negotiation of the 2008 Convention on Cluster Munitions as it could be taken to mean that certain core prohibitions were being weakened. The rationale for the provision was that certain States Parties would engage in military operations or cooperation with States not party that might continue to stockpile, transfer, or use cluster munitions prohibited under the Convention. As the International Committee of the Red Cross has noted in its November 2008 Fact Sheet on the Convention:
The Convention does not prohibit ‘military cooperation and operations’ with States not party to the Convention that might use cluster munitions during combined operations. States Parties may continue to be involved in planning, training, logistics, and combat operations with non-party States using these weapons. Such activities do not necessarily violate the Convention as long as the State Party does not itself use cluster munitions or directly participate in some other prohibited activity such as stockpiling, transferring or producing cluster munitions. In any case, States Parties are required to discourage the use of cluster munitions by non-party States.
Last updated on: 01 December 2013
The Diplomatic Conference for the Adoption of a Convention on Cluster Munitions was held in Dublin, Ireland on 18–30 May 2008.