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Historic treaty to ban cluster bombs moves forward

Press Release

Survivors successfully pressure states to sign up to cluster bomb ban

Historic treaty to ban cluster bombs moves forward

Brussels and Wellington, 22 February 2008 – After a week of tough talks in Wellington (New Zealand) attended by 122 states, the voices of survivors and committed nations has prevailed. A draft treaty to ban cluster munitions, assist victims and ensure clearance of their land has been endorsed for formal negotiation. States calling for exceptions to the Cluster Munition Treaty have reviewed their positions with eighty-two agreeing to negotiate what will be the most significant disarmament treaty of the decade. The ‘Wellington Declaration’ provides the draft treaty text to be negotiated and agreed in Dublin in May.

Handicap International has been working alongside cluster munition survivors at the Wellington discussions to ensure their voices have been heard. The Ban Advocates group consisting of survivors from Tajikistan, Iraq, Afghanistan and Serbia has been present at all formal discussions, delivering pleas to delegates and intervening on all controversial issues, such as the use of cluster bombs in joint operations, definitions and transition periods.

“I lost my eye and my life was devastated when my uncle and brother were killed by a cluster bomb attack,” said Umarbek Pulodov, “we urgently need a treaty to ban these deadly weapons and to help survivors rebuild their lives.”

In recent months, a small group of countries have been attempting to weaken the treaty by calling for exemptions on certain types of cluster bombs, transition periods during which cluster bombs could still be used after a ban and permissions to use them in joint military operations. These States included Australia, Canada, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Netherlands, Slovakia, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom.

While on Monday 18 February these states’ positions looked quite strong and well coordinated, all of these states are now supporting the Wellington Declaration and agreed on a very strong draft treaty text being sent to Dublin for the formal negotiations due to begin on 19 May. This does not mean that the work is over though: negotiations in May are likely to be difficult, and civil society as well as supportive States shall have to remain firm in order to secure a strong treaty.

“We are winning the battle,” said Stan Brabant from Handicap International. “States trying to weaken the treaty have begun reviewing their positions, but we must keep up the pressure until the treaty is finalized in Dublin and signed in Oslo.” Affected countries, in particular from Africa, Latin America, Asia and the Middle-East, have played a critical role, systematically opposing any attempts to introduce exceptions or loopholes and ensuring that the treaty remains as strong as possible.

For more information, photography and interviews, contact:
• Stan Brabant (in New Zealand, GMT +13): +32 485 33 68 15 (French, English)
• Hildegarde Vansintjan: +32 485 111 460 (Dutch, French, English, German)

For the survivors’ own words, go to www.banadvocates.org

Notes to editors:
Cluster munitions are weapons that can disperse up to several hundreds of smaller submunitions - sometimes referred to as “bomblets” - over wide areas. They have indiscriminate wide area effects that kill and injure victims during and even years after a strike. They pose an enormous economic, social and psychological threat to civilians and make up 98 % of all confirmed cluster munition victims. As of today, Handicap International has collected individual and detailed records on nearly 14,000 casualties in at least 25 countries and 5 areas.

In May 2007, Handicap International released Circle of Impact, the first comprehensive study systematically analyzing the impact of cluster munitions on civilian populations through casualty data and socio-economic profiles. Circle of Impact can be found on http://en.handicapinternational.be/index.php?action=article&numero=467

Handicap International is a founding member of the Cluster Munition Coalition (CMC), a coalition of over 200 NGOs from all over the world that campaign together for an international ban on cluster munitions. More: www.stopclustermunitions.org

The Ban Advocates were able to influence discussions on all major topics discussed during the Wellington Conference. Their statements and impressions on the conference are available on www.banadvocates.org

The Wellington Conference on Cluster Munitions is the fourth global meeting of the Oslo process on cluster munitions, that Norway initiated in November 2006. The conference shall discuss the third draft of the treaty banning cluster munitions. For more information, go to http://www.mfat.govt.nz/clustermunitionswellington/
or www.clusterprocess.org

ends

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