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Lebanon Ratifies Cluster Munitions Ban

First Formal Meeting of the Treaty Countries to Open on November 9

(Beirut) - Lebanon ratified the international convention banning cluster munitions on November 5, 2010, just ahead of the opening of the convention's first formal meeting of its states parties. The ratification is especially significant because Lebanon has suffered greatly from cluster munitions, Human Rights Watch said today.

"Lebanon's sad history with this weapon makes its ratification of the cluster munitions ban especially poignant," said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East and North Africa director at Human Rights Watch. "All governments need to get on board with the ban, especially those from the Middle East and North Africa, where too few have joined."

Lebanon's parliament approved ratification of the Convention on Cluster Munitions on August 17, 2010, and the government officially deposited the instrument of ratification with the United Nations in New York on November 5.

The first meeting of states parties to the convention will be held in Vientiane, Laos from November 9-12. Lebanon has offered to be the host for the second meeting, likely in September 2011, and it is expected that the treaty members will formally accept that offer in Laos.

Lebanon was an early leader in the movement to ban cluster munitions. Israel's use of cluster munitions containing millions of submunitions in south Lebanon in 2006 was one of the catalysts behind the "Oslo Process," which resulted in the Convention on Cluster Munitions. Lebanon actively participated in the negotiations, was the host of a regional meeting in November 2008, and was one of the first governments to sign the convention on December 3, 2008.

A total of 108 countries have signed the convention, which became binding international law on August 1, after 30 countries ratified it.  Lebanon is the 46th signatory to ratify the convention, following Guatemala's ratification on November 3.

The treaty prohibits the use, production, transfer, and stockpiling of cluster munitions and requires their clearance and assistance to victims of the weapon. Under the terms of the convention, Lebanon has 10 years to clear contaminated areas.

"This ratification underscores the need for Lebanon and international donors to increase efforts to clear contaminated areas and to assist cluster munitions victims and their communities," Whitson said. "As we have seen this week, cluster munitions continue to cause casualties in Lebanon, years after they were used."

On October 25, a deminer was killed and at least four others were injured when a submunition exploded as their team cleared land near Tyre in southern Lebanon. Cluster munitions have caused more than 300 casualties in Lebanon since 2006, and 23 square kilometers of land remain to be cleared.

Cluster munitions have been used in more than 30 countries since the end of World War II, including in Iraq, Israel, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Saudi Arabia, and Syria, as well as in Western Sahara. Lebanon is only the second state from the Middle East and North Africa region to ratify the Convention on Cluster Munitions, following Tunisia on September 28. Iraq has signed, but not yet ratified.

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