The global Campaign against cluster bombs has received a major boost with the ratification of the treaty banning the weapons by three additional countries. Croatia deposited its instrument of ratification at the UN headquarters on Monday 17 August followed by its neighbour, Slovenia, on Wednesday 19 August. Subsequently, on 24 August, the UN Office for Legal Affairs sent its official notification that Zambia had deposited its instrument on 12 August, making it the 15th country to do so. Seventeen countries have now ratified this crucial treaty in less than nine months. Thirteen more ratifications are needed to reach 30 and trigger entry into force six months later.
Cluster munitions are troublesome from a moral and legal standpoint because their use results in a percentage of unexploded “bomlets” that can lay dormant long after the war is over. These bomlets become the functional equivalent of landmines and do not discriminate between combatants and non-combatants.
The idea is to relegate cluster munitions to the same illegal and universally shunned status as mustard gas. To that end, in 2008 94 countries met in Oslo to sign the Convention Against Cluster Munitions. Signatories include every Western European, central American and pretty much all commonwealth countries. A large number of Sub-Saharan and west African states are also signatories. The big holdouts are the United States and Russia, and China. In fact, the United States and Russia both used cluster munitions in recent conflicts.