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International: Cluster Bomb Ban Signed

(Dec. 16, 2008) On December 3 and 4, 2008, in Oslo, Norway, close to 100 countries signed a pact to ban cluster bombs, a type of weapon considered particularly likely to kill or maim civilians. Among the signatories were Britain, France, Germany, and 15 other NATO members, but the arms-producing nations China, Russia, and the United States did not sign the agreement.

Norway was the first nation to sign the treaty; Jens Stoltenberg, the Norwegian Prime Minister, said at the time, “[t]oday we confirm that cluster munitions are banned forever. … This convention will make the world a safer and better place to live.” (Cluster Bomb Ban Signed in Oslo, Big Powers Missing, REUTERS, Dec. 3, 2008, available at, a country in which it is estimated 15,000 people were killed or injured by cluster bombs in the Vietnam War era, was the second signatory. The Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister of Laos, Thongloun Sisoulith, stated that the Convention “[d]eserves full global support.” (Id.)

The Convention on Cluster Munitions is concerned with bombs that can contain hundreds of sub-munitions or “bomblets” that impact a wide area, making them likely to kill indiscriminately, according to those who campaigned for the ban. The unexploded bomblets pose dangers to people in the area for many years after they are used. The Convention, adopted by 107 states in Dublin, Ireland, in May 2008 and opened for signature on December 3, bans the use, production, stockpiling, and trading of cluster bombs. It further requires states that are party to its provisions to destroy existing supplies of the weapons within eight years; areas contaminated by their use must be cleared of the bomblets within ten years of the effective date of the Convention. The agreement also stipulates that parties will provide assistance to victims of cluster bombs and their affected families and communities.

The document comes into force six months after ratification by 30 countries. Norway, Ireland, the Holy See, and Sierra Leone planned to deposit instruments of ratification immediately upon signing.

One of the organizations that advocated the adoption of the treaty was the Cluster Munition Coalition (CMC). The Co-Chair of the group, Grethe Østern, stated of the Convention, “[t]his treaty shows what can be achieved when states and civil society act together. … This is a victory because the treaty outlines clear obligations for states to help survivors, clear the land and destroy stockpiles so that the weapon can never be used again.” (Campaigners Welcome Signing of Historic International Treaty Banning Deadly Cluster Munitions, CMC website, Dec. 3, 2008, available at