Background Briefing

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The immediate effect and long-term impact of the use of cluster munitions over the past forty years have demonstrated that cluster munitions pose unacceptable risks to civilians.  Yet little has been done to reduce the supply of and demand for the weapon, or to regulate its production, trade or use.  There is no transparency requirement in any conventional arms control regime that requires states to declare or notify other states of sales or transfers of cluster munitions.

Human Rights Watch first issued a call in 1999 for a moratorium on the use of cluster munitions until the humanitarian problems associated with their use are resolved.  In conjunction with subscribing to this call, states should adopt national policies to curb the unrestricted production and export of these weapons.  Human Rights Watch recommends that governments committed to reducing the risk to civilians posed by cluster munitions enact the following steps related to their production and export:

  • Disclose prior exports of cluster munitions to include recipient states and weapon types.
  • Prohibit the export of cluster munitions known to be inaccurate or to have high submunition failure rates (including the BL-755, Rockeye, and Belouga bombs, M26 MLRS rockets, and M509, M483, and M864 DPICM projectiles) and provide assistance to buy-back or destroy previously exported types.
  • Remove decommissioned cluster munitions from the types of weapons eligible for transfer as excess defense articles to allies.
  • Make public the technical characteristics of cluster munitions produced or exported; at a minimum, disclose the number of submunitions, fuze type, estimated foot-print, known failure rate for each munition type.
  • Establish a national procurement requirement specifying a high rate of submunition reliability (i.e., greater than 99%) if cluster munitions are ever produced or exported in the future.
  • Restrict exports of cluster munitions to states that have joined or provisionally applied the 2003 Protocol V on Explosive Remnants of War of the 1980 Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons.
  • Voluntarily apply at the national level the generic preventive measures and best practices referred to in part 3 of the technical annex of CCW Protocol V related to the production and export of cluster munitions.  States should report on its implementation measures at CCW meetings.

<<previous  |  index  |  next>>April 2005