Blog: Anna Crow

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November 23, 2011

Dispatch from Geneva

Posted by Nicolette Boehland, JD ’13, and Anna Crowe, LLM ’12

Diplomats from more than 100 countries are currently engaged in heated deliberations in Geneva over a proposed protocol, put forward by the United States and others, that would allow the use of certain cluster munitions indefinitely.  The International Human Rights Clinic has joined a group of nongovernmental organizations in arguing against the proposal, which would threaten the impact of an existing international treaty that protects civilians by absolutely banning the weapons.

Senior Clinical Instructor Bonnie Docherty consults with NGO delegates on a new version of the proposed weak treaty on cluster munitions. Photo by Gemima Harvey/CMC

If adopted, the proposed protocol would directly compete with the Convention on Cluster Munitions, a treaty that seeks to eliminate the devastating effects of cluster munitions on civilians.  More than 108 countries have signed on to that convention, which went into force August 2010, and 66 states are full parties, bound by all its provisions.  The convention prohibits use, production, transfer, and stockpiling of cluster munitions and obliges states to provide assistance to victims of past use.

The United States, which is not a party to the Convention on Cluster Munitions, has led the charge for the new protocol over the last week at the Review Conference of the Convention for Conventional Weapons (CCW) in Geneva.  The protocol would be attached to the CCW framework convention, an umbrella treaty with protocols governing specific types of weapons.  Protocol supporters argue that certain major stockpilers and users of cluster munitions who are not currently party to the Convention on Cluster Munitions might join this proposed protocol because it is not a complete ban.

But the Clinic argued in a paper distributed to delegates last week that the new protocol would constitute an unprecedented step backwards in terms of international humanitarian law.  The international community has never adopted a treaty that provides weaker protections for civilians from armed conflict than a treaty already in force.

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