Australia is about to make it legal for Australian forces to directly and actively assist in the use of cluster bombs, while also allowing foreign forces to transit their cluster bombs through Australian territory and to stockpile them on Australian soil. This is the paradoxical outcome of Australia joining the Convention on Cluster Munitions - an international treaty that aims to totally ban these weapons.
Australia has never used, produced, stockpiled or traded cluster bombs, but in the process of ratifying the Convention on Cluster Munitions our government has seen fit to include these sweeping loopholes in the bill, thus undermining the whole purpose of the Convention. The Convention bans the use, manufacture, stockpiling and trade of cluster bombs, as well as assistance with their use, stockpiling, production or transfer of cluster munitions. It also has groundbreaking positive obligations to provide assistance to survivors and for state parties to assist with clearance of areas affected by unexploded cluster bombs.
The Senate has the power to ensure that this bill is amended so that it unequivocally meets Australia’s obligations under the Convention. The Senate can vote to remove the loopholes and ensure that Australia does its part to help eradicate these devastating weapons. You can do your part too! Sign the petition below and join us in asking the Senate to amend this flawed bill.
Cluster munitions are a large cause of death and disability in developing countries. Many submunitions (approximately 30%) fail to detonate on impact and continue affecting people long after a conflict has ended. 98% of victims of unexploded submunitions are civilians. Cluster munitions affect broad areas, lack accuracy and their size and shape make them attractive to children.
More than two dozen countries have been affected by the use of cluster munitions including Afghanistan, Albania, Angola, Azerbaijan, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Cambodia, Chad, Croatia, DR Congo, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Georgia, Grenada, Iraq, Israel, Kuwait, Laos, Lebanon, Montenegro, Saudi Arabia, Serbia, Sierra Leone, Sudan, Syria, Tajikistan, Uganda, and Vietnam, as well as Chechnya, Falkland/Malvinas, Nagorno-Karabakh, and Western Sahara.
A proposed Bill (the Criminal Code Amendment (Cluster Munitions Prohibition) Bill 2010) to meet Australia’s obligations under the Convention on Cluster Munitions is about to be debated in the Senate.
However, this Bill falls significantly short of meeting the purpose of the Convention on Cluster Munitions – ‘to put an end for all time to the suffering and casualties caused by cluster munitions at the time of their use, when they fail to function as intended or when they are abandoned’.
The main concerns with the Bill are:
* It allows Australian forces to assist other countries who haven’t signed on to the Convention (like the US) to use of cluster munitions
* It allows other countries to stockpile and transit cluster munitions on Australian territory
* It allows Australia to retain cluster munitions without specifying any reporting obligations or setting a minimum number
* It does not cover a number of obligations listed in the Convention such as providing victim assistance, assisting in clearing submunitions in affected countries or encouraging other countries to sign on to the Convention
* It does not prohibit indirect investment in cluster munition manufacture (direct investment in cluster munition manufacture does not exist, only indirect investment)