Last week, the international convention to ban the use of cluster bombs and other munitions was ratified by two more countries, providing the 30 ratifications needed for it to become officially binding international law. The Convention on Cluster Munitions will now come into force this year on 1 August, little more than two years after it was first adopted in Dublin in May 2008.
Since then, movement on this convention has occurred fairly rapidly, due to widespread pressure and concerns expressed around the globe that had built up in preceding years. I did some work on this topic when I was in the Senate, co-sponsoring legislation, along with Bob Brown, Lyn Allisionand ALP Senator Mark Bishop, which sought to ban cluster munitions. The majority of the Senate Committee which inquired into that legislation in 2007 was not supportive of the legislation.
However, in August last year, the federal Parliament’s Joint Standing Committee on Treaties reported on their inquiry into the convention. The Committee recommended that the convention be ratified, whilst also identifying some areas where domestic legislation to implement the requirements of the convention would need to be made clear enough to prevent any inadvertent loopholes or breaches.
According to Human Rights Watch, the convention
comprehensively prohibits the use, production, and transfer of cluster munitions, provides strict deadlines for clearing affected areas and destroying stockpiled cluster munitions, and requires assistance to victims of the weapons.
Noticeable about the list of nations who have ratified or signed the convention is how few there are from Asia. Japan and Laos are the only two Asian nations to have ratified the convention to date, with Afghanistan, Indonesia and the Philippines the only others to have signed it.
The Australian government has yet to respond to the Treaties Committee report or to announce a decision to ratify, leaving us in a group 73 other countries that have signed but not yet ratified the convention. Ratifying this important piece of international law will not only ensure Australian adherence to it; it will also assist efforts to encourage other nations in our region to do the same.