The Welcome Demise of Cluster Munitions

How many legs lost? Photo: François Bouchet/flickr

Munitions that break apart and scatter over a wide territory have been used since World War II. But yesterday, 1 August 2010, the Convention on Cluster Munitions (CCM) has finally become part of international Humanitarian Law. Following in the footsteps of the Mine Ban Treaty, the CCM disallows the use, production, stockpiling, and transfer of cluster munitions.

The impetus for the treaty was widespread concern over the severe damage and risks to civilians from explosive weapons not only during, but also long after attacks. Cluster munitions (or cluster bombs) are indiscriminate weapons dropped from the air or deployed by ground-based delivery systems that often distribute hundreds of bomblets (or submunitions) that can cover an area the size of several football fields. On impact, many of the bomblets fail to explode – by design or flaw – and thereby remain a threat to lives and livelihoods many years after the conflict has ended. The most vulnerable, as usual, are the children, mistaking the deadly shrapnel for toys.