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Statement of the International Committee of the Red Cross Plenary discussion on CCW draft protocol VI 24 November 2011
I would like to begin by thanking Ambassador Danon and his team for their tremendous efforts and indeed by thanking all delegations for the seriousness with which they have addressed the issue of cluster munitions. We fully recognise that this has involved arduous debate and policy discussions, not only here in this forum but also at national level. The ICRC appreciates that several major stockpilers of cluster munitions have recognised the severe and unacceptable humanitarian impacts of these weapons and are prepared to take some steps forward to address these consequences. All States have an existing responsibility under international humanitarian law to take "all feasible precautions" to protect civilians from the effects of armed conflict. Many of the steps identified in these discussions must be considered to constitute feasible precautions and should in any case be taken as a national responsibility. The question here is whether the limited set of measures, based upon specific technologies known to have contributed to the humanitarian problem in the past and expected to do so in the future, should be enshrined in a treaty of international humanitarian law that is intended to "address urgently the humanitarian problems" associated with cluster munitions. Our appraisal on this point may have been different if the actual reliability of the systems in question had been discussed in detail and clear standards set, as was the case for antipersonnel mines regulated by amended Protocol II of the CCW. We fully recognise that the use of some cluster munitions, namely those produced before 1980, would be prohibited under the Draft Protocol and that this should lead to the destruction of these types at some future point in time. We also appreciate that significant commitments in the fields of clearance and victim assistance have been included. However, these positive measures must be weighed against the human costs of the far greater quantities of cluster munitions the use of which would be permitted for 12 years or indefinitely. We have heard much about the millions of cluster munitions that may be destroyed under this draft protocol but still nothing about the quantities that would be permitted for 12 years or indefinitely. Given that key provisions of the draft protocol have not changed since the outset of this Conference we must reiterate the appraisal of the ICRC President a week ago: the draft does not represent an adequate or urgent response to the humanitarian problem and risks perpetuating many aspects of this problem. It would also set an unfortunate precedent in international humanitarian law. In closing we would like to recall that States, having recognised the humanitarian problem associated with these weapons, have an obligation to act and that all States have a legal responsibility to implement all of the fundamental rules of international humanitarian law governing the conduct of hostilities that are directly relevant to cluster munitions.