US Bid to Destroy Cluster Bomb Ban Fails

November 26th, 2011 - by admin & The Guardian & Reuters & Human TV – 2011-11-26 02:10:47

US Bid to Destroy Cluster Bomb Ban Fails

This Is The Kind of Weapon Obama Wanted to Legalize

US Bid to Destroy Cluster Bomb Ban Fails
Jason Ditz /

(November 25, 2011) — President Obama’s effort to effective emasculate the international ban on cluster bombs failed today, when at least 50 nations including Britain filed objections. Human rights campaigners had been condemning the US effort, saying that it would be a major backtrack from the formal ban.

The US version would have simply “regulated” the manufacture of cluster munitions without banning them, and was supposed by Russia, China and Israel, all of whom still have such weapons in their arsenals.

The US said the ban makes “no sense” and that the change from a ban to a regulation would have had a “substantial humanitarian impact on the ground.” Its opponents agreed on that account, but said the impact wouldn’t be in a good way.

Though Britain was among those who already signed the ban, their objection to the US changes was still something of a surprise, as the nation rarely openly challenges US policy in international forums.

Cluster Bombs: Hell from Above
Pepe Escobar / The Real News

Britain Unites with Smaller Countries to Block US Bid to Legalise Cluster Bombs
Richard Norton-Taylor / The Guardian

(November 25, 2011) — A coalition of countries including Britain on Friday defeated an attempt by the US, Russia, China and Israel to get an international agreement approving the continued use of cluster bombs. The weapons, which have been used in Iraq, Afghanistan and Lebanon scatter “bomblets” over a wide area, maiming and killing civilians, notably children, long after they have been dropped and are banned under a 2008 convention which was adopted by the UK and in more than 100 countries.

The US, refused to sign and in negotiations in Geneva, over the past two weeks pressed for a protocol to be added to a UN convention to provide legal cover for the continuing use of cluster munitions. But smaller countries, supported by agencies including Amnesty and Oxfam, refused to give way.

Thomas Nash, director of Article 36, a group which coordinated opposition to cluster munitions, said: “The rejection of this attempt to set up a weaker standard on cluster bombs shows that states can act on the basis of humanitarian imperatives and can prevail in the face of cynical pressure from other states”.

He added: “It shows that it is not only the US and other so called major powers that call the shots in international affairs, but that when small and medium sized countries work together with civil society and international organisations we can set the agenda and get results”.

The US was supported in the Geneva talks by other cluster bomb manufacturers — including Russia, China, Israel, India and Pakistan. They were backed by countries that had signed the 2008 convention, including France, Germany, Italy, Portugal and Australia, conference observers said.

The Foreign Office had said that the British government would not accept the proposed protocol unless it provided clear humanitarian benefits.

The US and its supporters argued that their proposal would allow the use of cluster bombs manufactured after 1980 and that these had a less than 1% failure rate. Opponents said that most bombs produced before 1980 are unusable and that modern cluster munitions have failure rates much higher than the manufacturers claim.

If the US bid had been approved, international legal cover would have been given to such weapons as the BLU-97 “combined effects” bomb, which contains bomblets that, as they fall, fragment and can turn into an incendiary weapon.

The unexploded bomblets have the appearance of yellow drink containers and are attractive, often picked up by children who mistake them for toys. However, the consequences are lethal, often resulting in maiming or even fatalities.

US Defeated in Bid on Cluster Bomb Accord
Tom Miles / Reuters

GENEVA (November 25, 2011) — A US-led push to regulate, rather than ban, cluster munitions failed on Friday after 50 countries objected, following humanitarian campaigners’ claims that anything less than a outright ban would be an unprecedented reversal of human rights law.

While the United States, China and Russia want rules about the manufacture and use of cluster bombs, activists say such regulations would legitimise the munitions, backtracking from the Oslo Convention, an international treaty that seeks a worldwide ban.

“Against all odds it looks like we’re going to have success this evening,” Steve Goose, head of the arms division at Human Rights Watch, told a press conference in Geneva. “How often do you see the US, Russia, China, India, Israel and Belarus push for something, and they don’t get it? That has happened largely because of one powerful alliance driving the Oslo partnership.”

Cluster bombs, dropped by air or fired by artillery, scatter hundreds of bomblets across a wide area and can kill and maim civilians long after conflicts end.

US officials say it makes sense to bring in rules because 85-90 percent of cluster munition stockpiles are held by countries that are not parties to the Oslo Convention and have no intention of joining.

“The United States is deeply disappointed by the failure… to conclude a protocol on cluster munitions,” the US embassy in Geneva said in a statement.

“The protocol would have led to the immediate prohibition of many millions of cluster munitions; placed the remaining cluster munitions under a detailed set of restrictions and regulations; and subjected member states to a detailed list of additional obligations … all of which would have led to a substantial humanitarian impact on the ground.”

A senior US official said cluster munitions were a military necessity and were needed to hit targets spread over wide areas, while using alternative armaments would cause more collateral damage and prolong conflicts.

Opponents want them banned because they are indiscriminate weapons that may fail to explode on impact and lie dormant, ready to kill or injure anyone who picks them up or touches them by mistake.

Those lining up against the US plan included the International Committee of the Red Cross and the top U.N. officials for human rights, emergency relief and development.

The U.N. agency chiefs said cluster bombs were a particular threat to children, who were attracted by their unusual, toy-like shapes and colours. They said they were extremely concerned at plans to do anything less than ban them.

“The adoption of (the US-led plan) that contains such provisions would set a disturbing precedent in international humanitarian law. It would, for the first time, create a new international treaty that is actually weaker than existing international humanitarian law,” they said in a statement.

The US measure, which would have regulated cluster bombs under the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons (CCW), proposed to ban those manufactured before 1980 and to ensure a failure rate of no more than one percent by 2018.

Opponents say the old weapons are likely to be phased out anyway and failure rates are unverified.

“The actual failure rates of cluster munitions used in actual wars are much higher than in tests,” said Grethe Ostern of Norwegian People’s Aid. “There are many differences between testing conditions and real conditions.”

She cited a “top notch” cluster bomb used by Israel in Lebanon which was supposed to have a one percent failure rate but in fact failed more than 10 percent of the time.

Human Rights Watch’s Goose contrasted the US approach on cluster bombs to its approach to torture, and said nobody would accept a proposal to regulate and allow torture.

“Wouldn’t it be better to have something out there for people who still practice torture? No.”

Activists said the opposition to the US proposal was led by Norway, Mexico and Austria, while 12 signatories to the 2008 Oslo Convention, including Japan, France and Germany, said they were in favour of regulation of cluster bombs under the CCW.

China and Russia, which like the United States are major producers of cluster munitions, were strongly supportive of the US measure.

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Booming Business:
British Banks and Cluster Bombs

HumanTV / Amnesty International

LONDON (August 16, 2011) — Filmmaker Chris Atkins blows the lid on UK Banks’ investment in cluster bombs. 98% of cluster bomb victims are civilians and 30% are children. Despite the UK being signed up to an international treaty banning cluster bombs, last year alone the Royal Bank of Scotland provided over $80million in funding to companies involved in their production. We want that to stop.

The full responses from RBS, HSBC, Barclays and Lloyds that are quoted in this report are available on our blog at