Afghanistan ratifies cluster bomb ban despite U.S. pressure

Country where cluster bombs have killed hundreds becomes State Party on eve of international conference

by the Cluster Munition Coalition (CMC)

(Beirut, Lebanon, 12 September 2011): Afghanistan, which has witnessed the devastation cluster munitions cause, has become the 62nd state party to the Convention on Cluster Munitions on the eve of an international conference on the ban.

The Cluster Munition Coalition (CMC), which is currently gathered in Beirut, Lebanon for the Second Meeting of States Parties to the Convention, warmly welcomed this news.

Steve Goose, Chair of the CMC, said: “We are delighted Afghanistan has joined the growing list of countries now legally bound to work together to stop the harm being done by this deadly, indiscriminate weapon.”

Cluster munitions were used extensively by Soviet and United States forces in Afghanistan between 1979 and 2002, and at least 745 people have been injured by cluster munitions there since 1980.

Between October 2001 and early 2002 alone, US aircraft dropped 1,228 cluster bombs containing 248,056 submunitions in 232 strikes on locations throughout the country.

Afghan government officials and campaigners will be among delegates from around 120 countries attending the States Parties conference this week.

From Tuesday 13 to Friday 16 September these delegates will be joined by more than 230 campaigners from 66 countries in Beirut – capital of one of the countries most severely contaminated by cluster munitions.

“We’re pleased that Afghanistan is now a State Party to the Convention and hope it will set an example to others by beginning their work to implement their obligations under the treaty straight away,” said Sulaiman Safdar of Afghan Landmine Survivors Organisation (ALSO), a member of the CMC.

Afghanistan participated in several meetings of the Oslo Process that created the Convention but it did not attend the final negotiations in May 2008 in Dublin.

However, Afghan representatives unexpectedly signed the Convention on Cluster Munitions at the Signing Conference in Oslo in on December 3 2008.

In May 2011 U.S. diplomatic cables released via Wikileaks showed that United States – a known opponent of this international humanitarian process – had been lobbying high level officials in President Karzai’s government not to sign the Convention.

“As a country where cluster munitions have been used, and where conflict still plagues many people’s daily lives, Afghanistan’s pledge to implement this treaty is significant news,” said Goose.

“We now know that Afghanistan was under real pressure not to join this treaty, even though it will help Afghan communities who have been affected by this weapon. That Afghanistan has made this humanitarian commitment deserves praise,” Goose said.

Afghanistan will formally become a State Party on 1 March 2012 after the waiting period mandated by the Convention.

“Thousands of people in Afghanistan are currently living with injuries from cluster munitions and other deadly remnants of war. This treaty really could save lives of Afghan civilians as not only Afghan forces but also foreign forces should never use or stockpile cluster munitions in the country again. The treaty is also vital as it obliges states to support victims of these weapons and ensures their human rights and welfare will now be protected under international law,” Safdar added.

The CMC is urging governments, including Afghanistan, to come to Beirut this week with clear plans and timelines for how they will implement the 66-point action plan agreed on at the First Meeting of States Parties held in Lao PDR last November.

This includes how they propose to destroy cluster munitions stockpiles, clear contaminated land, and assistance survivors.

The CMC hopes that those that have not yet joined the convention will come and report on positive steps they too are taking to rid the world of these weapons.

The Cluster Munition Coalition

http://www.stopclustermunitions.org

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