Geneva, Switzerland

Thank you, Mr. Chairman, for giving us the opportunity to make a few observations at the beginning of this session of the Group of Governmental Experts of the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons (CCW).

Governments have once again gathered here in Geneva to try to reach a compromise on the regulation of cluster munitions that is acceptable to all. It is no secret that Human Rights Watch believes that, if this effort bears fruit, it will be a "compromise too far" and it will fall far short of the standard set by the Convention on Cluster Munitions. Our reasons for this belief are well known and take on a new significance with the forthcoming entry into force of the Convention in August.

As with many topics addressed in the CCW, things often come back around in a strange way. Today, for example, allow me to introduce the notion that "existing law is NOW sufficient" on cluster munitions. The oft-heard refrain in years past from those opposed to any meaningful new measures that "existing law is sufficient" was eventually rejected by nearly everyone, but now that the Convention on Cluster Munitions is a reality, the phrase takes on a new meaning and relevance.

The Convention on Cluster Munitions is sufficient, and any new law short of that will be insufficient. Any potential compromise reached in the CCW this year will likely be inherently incompatible with the prohibitions in the Convention on Cluster Munitions, and will also likely be weaker than the unilateral steps taken by states that are not in a position to join the Convention.

Over the years, the detractors of the Oslo Process and those desperate for any sort of compromise in the CCW have perpetuated a "myth of stockpiling"-a myth I would like to deconstruct. They claim a protocol on cluster munitions in the CCW is necessary because, according to the myth, states stockpiling the weapon are not part of the Convention on Cluster Munitions, but are part of the CCW. They further claim that some 90 percent of global stocks of cluster munitions are held by those outside the ban convention, but inside the CCW.

Human Rights Watch has been documenting the global production, stockpiling, use, and transfer of cluster munitions for many years. In 2002, we identified 56 states that stockpiled cluster munitions. As new information has become available, this number has grown to a total of 87 states.

Of the 87 states that have possessed stockpiles, 38 are signatories to the Convention on Cluster Munitions, 32 are party to the CCW but not the ban convention, and 17 are not part of either.  So the myth that only the CCW has the stockpilers does not have basis.

The assertion that only the CCW has big stockpilers is much more difficult to address, since a vast majority of states stockpiling cluster munitions have not disclosed detailed information on the quantities, types, or other information.  Thus it is not possible, given what is known, to make a valid claim about quantities in stockpile that the CCW could potentially capture. It is worth noting that a prior Chairman of the Group stated three years ago that "it does not matter whether this figure is 90 percent, 80 percent, or 70 percent," tacitly admitting that there was no empirical basis for this claim. 

Looking at what is known, 12 states that have signed the Convention on Cluster Munitions have disclosed that they stockpile at least 662,000 cluster munitions containing more than 144 million submunitions. This number will undoubtedly grow considerably as the detailed information required by the Convention's transparency regime becomes available.

Only one state party to the CCW that has not signed the Convention on Cluster Munitions, the United States, has disclosed the size of its stockpile. As reported to its legislature in 2004, the US stockpile consisted of nearly 5.5 million weapons containing nearly 730 million submunitions. As the US representative has stated several times in this room, over 95 percent of this stockpile does not meet reliability standards set by its own national policy and will not be used after 2018, the same year coincidently of the first stockpile destruction deadlines for the Convention on Cluster Munitions.

While we strongly believe that every state should join the ban convention now, it appears likely that, for those not yet ready to join, progressive national policies will be more effective than any compromise protocol on cluster munitions coming from the CCW. In fact, a weak new protocol would likely give states not in position to join the ban convention an excuse not to adopt positive unilateral national steps. 

At this point, it seems certain that any CCW protocol will allow the continued use of cluster munitions that have a documented history of creating humanitarian harm both at the time of attack and after hostilities have ceased due to their inaccuracy and unreliability.

The CCW should not continue to plod along year after year debating how low to set the standards of regulation on cluster munitions. For cluster munitions, existing law is now sufficient. For states not ready to adhere to the Convention on Cluster Munitions, strong national action is necessary in the interim, not a weak CCW protocol.

As the next review conference approaches, the focus of the CCW should shift away from cluster munitions toward a serious review of the status and operation of existing protocols, especially Protocol III on incendiary weapons, and how to address their inadequacies.

Thank you.