9 February 2009
Their widespread dispersal means they cannot distinguish between military targets and civilians so the humanitarian impact can be extreme, especially when the weapon is used in or near populated areas.
Many sub-munitions fail to detonate on impact and become de facto antipersonnel mines killing and maiming people long after the cessation of hostilities. One third of all recorded cluster munitions casualties are children. 60% of cluster bomb casualties are injured while undertaking their normal activities.
A new international treaty banning cluster munitions opened for signing in December and so far 94 nations have signed the treaty, which bans cluster munitions outright and provides strong humanitarian provisions for their cleanup and assistance to victims.
Four states, Ireland, Norway, Sierra Leone, the Vatican have already moved to the next stage which is to ratify the treaty. This Convention on Cluster Munitions will become binding international law six months after 30 signatories have ratified it.
The Cluster Munitions Coalition, which includes Human Rights Watch has instigated an online global petition calling on all governments to ratify the Convention. The website also enables individuals to determine the current status of their government’s response to the treaty and if necessary to urge its signing, ratification and implementation.