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Australia adopts new law banning cluster bombs


Media release: Aotearoa New Zealand Cluster Munition Coalition


Australia adopts new law banning cluster bombs despite objections
Ratification of Convention on Cluster Munitions expected shortly


(Wellington, 22 August 2012): Australia ratification of the international treaty banning cluster bombs can finally proceed following the Senate’s approval, but there is disappointment in the precedent set by its flawed implementation legislation said the Aotearoa New Zealand wing of the international Cluster Munition Coalition today.

The Criminal Code Amendment (Cluster Munitions Prohibition) Bill 2010 passed the Senate by a vote of 29 to 10 on Tuesday, 21 August 2012. The Bill is expected to be signed into law shortly and then Australia will deposit its instrument of ratification to the Convention on Cluster Munitions with the United Nations in New York.

“Australia is a dedicated and active partner of the international movement to ban cluster bombs so we look forward to its ratification of the Convention on Cluster Munitions,” said Mary Wareham, coordinator of the Aotearoa New Zealand Cluster Munition Coalition (ANZCMC). “Yet it is disappointing that Australia failed to heed multiple calls to strengthen its flawed legislation to implement the convention.”

After its introduction in November 2010, the Criminal Code Amendment (Cluster Munitions Prohibition) Bill 2010 was referred to the Senate Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade for consideration. In January 2011, the ANZCMC and two dozen others made submissions requesting that key sections of the proposed legislation be strengthened and clarified. In March 2011 the committee recommended no changes to the draft legislation, but committee member Senator Scott Ludlam of the Australian Greens issued a dissenting report calling for amendments to the draft legislation. No further parliamentary action was taken until the legislation was debated and adopted this week.

The Criminal Code Amendment (Cluster Munitions Prohibition) Bill 2010 allows Australian troops to facilitate future use of cluster munitions by allies that have not joined the convention, notably the United States. For example, according to the Department of Defence, Australian forces could jointly plan cluster munition strikes, provide intelligence for such attacks, or refuel planes on their way to drop cluster munitions. In addition, the Bill would allow military personnel of states that are not parties to the treaty to escape prosecution for certain violations of the convention on Australian territory, such as the transfer and stockpiling of cluster munitions.

“Is Australia ready to accept responsibility for the deaths and injuries of civilians if its assistance with cluster munition attacks leads to casualties?” said Wareham. “In the absence of strong legislation, we urge strong and clear interpretation to ensure that Australia fully meets its obligation under the convention to prevent further casualties from cluster munitions.”

New Zealand’s draft implementing legislation for the Convention on Cluster Munitions was strengthened and clarified during a similar parliamentary review process in 2009. The Cluster Munitions Prohibition Act was signed into law on 17 December 2009, enabling New Zealand to ratify the Convention on Cluster Munitions less than a week later. New Zealand’s implementation legislation does not preclude mere participation in joint military operations yet it does not create exceptions to the convention’s strong prohibitions as the Australian law does.

The Convention on Cluster Munitions was adopted in May 2008 and entered into force and became binding international law for states parties on August 1, 2010. A total of 111 nations have joined the convention, of which 75 are States Parties and legally bound by its provisions. Article 9 of the convention requires that states “take all appropriate legal, administrative and other measures” to implement this convention, including the adoption of penal sanctions to prevent and suppress any prohibited activity.

The Aotearoa New Zealand Cluster Munition Coalition (ANZCMC) and Campaign Against Landmines (CALM) are governed jointly by a working group comprised of the following groups: Amnesty International Aotearoa NZ, Caritas Aotearoa NZ, Christian World Service, Disarmament and Security Centre, Engineers for Social Responsibility NZ, International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War NZ, National Council of Women NZ, National Consultative Committee on Disarmament, Oxfam NZ, Peace Movement Aotearoa, Soroptimist International NZ, United Nations Association NZ, United Nations Youth Association NZ, and Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, Aotearoa.

Contact: Mary Wareham, ANZCMC, Tel. +64-21-996-905, wareham@hrw.org, @marywareham

For more information, see:

· Australia’s implementing legislation: http://bit.ly/TOEM4f
· Submissions (January 2011) by ANZCMC: http://bit.ly/g6hnTC and by Human Rights Watch and Harvard Law School's International Human Rights Clinic: : http://bit.ly/Qg7NB8

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION

Cluster munitions

A cluster munition (or cluster bomb) is a weapon containing dozens or hundreds of small explosive submunitions or bomblets. Cluster munitions are dropped from the air or fired from the ground and designed to break open in mid-air, releasing the submunitions over an area that can be the size of several football fields. This means they cannot discriminate between civilians and soldiers. Many of the submunitions fail to explode on impact and remain a threat to lives and livelihoods for decades after a conflict.

Convention on Cluster Munitions

The 2008 Convention on Cluster Munitions bans the use, production, stockpiling and transfer of cluster munitions and requires countries to clear affected areas within 10 years and destroy stockpiles of the weapon within eight years. The Convention also includes groundbreaking provisions requiring assistance to victims and affected communities. Opened for signature in Oslo in December 2008, the Convention became binding international law on 1 August 2010. Since the Convention entered into force, countries must join through a process of accession, which is a one-step process combining signature and ratification, often requiring both government and parliamentary approval. The convention is widely regarded as the most significant international disarmament treaty since the 1997 Mine Ban Treaty.

A total of 111 countries have joined the convention, of which 75 have ratified or acceded

Afghanistan, Albania, Angola, Antigua and Barbuda, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Benin, Bolivia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Botswana, Bulgaria, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cameroon, Canada, Cape Verde, Central African Republic, Chad, Chile, Colombia, Comoros, DR Congo, Republic of Congo, Cook Islands, Costa Rica, Côte D’Ivoire, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Djibouti, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Fiji, France, Gambia, Germany, Ghana, Grenada, Guatemala, Guinea, Guinea Bissau, Haiti, Holy See, Honduras, Hungary, Iceland, Indonesia, Iraq, Ireland, Italy, Jamaica, Japan, Kenya, Lao PDR, Lebanon, Lesotho, Liberia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Macedonia FYR, Madagascar, Malawi, Mali, Malta, Mauritania, Mexico, Republic of Moldova, Monaco, Montenegro, Mozambique, Namibia, Nauru, Netherlands, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Niger, Nigeria, Norway, Palau, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Philippines, Portugal, Rwanda, Samoa, San Marino, Sao Tomé and Principe, St. Vincent and Grenadines, Senegal, Seychelles, Sierra Leone, Slovenia, Somalia, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Swaziland, Switzerland, Tanzania, Togo, Trinidad and Tobago, Tunisia, Uganda, United Kingdom, Uruguay, Zambia. (Bold italics indicates signatories that have not yet ratified)

New Zealand and cluster munitions

New Zealand is one of six governments that led the 2007-2008 diplomatic Oslo Process that created the Convention on Cluster Munitions. New Zealand hosted a crucial meeting of the Oslo Process in Wellington on 18-22 February 2008 and chaired the negotiations on the definition of cluster munitions. It signed the Convention in Oslo on 3 December 2008 and enacted strong legislation to implement the Convention on 17 December 2009. New Zealand ratified the Convention on 22 December 2009, becoming a State Party on 1 August 2010. Minister of Disarmament and Arms Control, Hon. Georgina Te Heuheu led New Zealand’s delegation to the Convention’s First Meeting of States Parties to the Convention on Cluster Munitions in Vientiane, Lao PDR in November 2010. She visited a province heavily affected by cluster bomb contamination and announced a funding contribution for clearance of cluster bombs and other explosive remnants of war in Lao PDR. In December 2011, the government terminated the position of Minister of Disarmament and Arms Control and incorporated the portfolio responsibilities into the position of the Minister of Foreign Affairs.

About the Aotearoa New Zealand Cluster Munition Coalition (ANZCMC)

The ANZCMC is a campaign of two dozen non-governmental organisations established in 2007 to support the call to stop cluster munitions from causing unacceptable harm to civilians. It is a member of the international Cluster Munition Coalition, which is the civil society engine behind the Convention on Cluster Munitions. Mary Wareham coordinates the ANZCMC, which is comprised of 24 non-governmental organisations. www.stopclusterbombs.org.nz

END


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