Cluster munitions – long condemned by human rights groups for the devastating impact they have on civilians caught up in conflict – will be banned in most countries as of 1 August. The Convention on Cluster Munitions was waiting for two final ratifications before it could become international law, and in February Burkina Faso and Moldova duly signed up. This means that the use, production and trade in cluster bombs will become illegal, and deadlines for the destruction of stockpiles will be put in place. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon hailed the decision, saying it showed ‘the world’s collective revulsion at the impact of these terrible weapons’.
Key powers such as the US, China, India, Israel, Russia and Pakistan have all refused to sign the treaty, but Steve Goose, arms division director at Human Rights Watch and co-chair of the international Cluster Munition Coalition, says that the new law will ‘make it especially important for former users of the weapon to re-examine their positions, which put questionable claims of military necessity above the well-documented humanitarian damage cluster munitions cause.’