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Australia bans devastating weapons

Australia bans devastating weapons

The Australian Government has adhered to its obligations under international humanitarian law and amended the Criminal Code to ban the use of cluster munitions.Cluster munitions are weapons…

The Australian Government has adhered to its obligations under international humanitarian law and amended the Criminal Code to ban the use of cluster munitions.

Cluster munitions are weapons which disperse bomblets over wide areas. If used in populated areas they have the potential to cause many civilian deaths.

The Criminal Code Amendment (Cluster Munitions Prohibition Bill) 2010 will allow Australia to ratify the Convention on Cluster Munitions, which came into force on 1 August this year. It will make it an offence to use, develop, produce, acquire, stockpile, retain or transfer cluster munitions; or assist, encourage or induce anyone to undertake these activities.

The Convention bans cluster munitions that cause unacceptable harm to civilians, and establishes a framework for co-operation and assistance that ensures adequate provision of care and rehabilitation for victims, clearance of cluster munitions in contaminated areas, risk education and the destruction of stockpiles.

"This Bill will strengthen Australia's legal framework regarding weapons that cause such significant and indiscriminate damage to civilians, and is a significant step towards ensuring Australia's law is consistent with this important Convention," said McClelland.

"The Convention seeks to reduce deaths and injuries from these devices and improve the quality of life for victims and their families."

The Bill contains provisions that allow Australia to continue to undertake military cooperation and operations, consistent with the Convention, with allies that have not signed the Convention.

Australia will also be able to continue to acquire and retain a limited number of cluster munitions for training in detection, clearance and destruction techniques, as well as the development of cluster munitions counter-measures.

The Minister for Defence, Stephen Smith, welcomed the Bill, saying: "The Government will ensure that the doctrine, procedures, rules and directives of the Australian Defence Force are consistent with the Convention, which I was very pleased to sign on behalf of Australia in Oslo in December 2008."

Foreign Affairs Minister Kevin Rudd, said the Mine Action Strategy for the Australian aid program 2010-2014 supported efforts to assist victims internationally, as well as efforts to clear and destroy the remnants of cluster munitions in countries that have been affected by their use.

"Australia has pledged $100 million over five years to reduce the threat and devastating impact of cluster munitions and other explosive remnants of war. This is the largest commitment ever made by Australia to mine action."

Australia will also send a high-level delegation to the First Meeting of States Parties to the Convention, which will be held in Laos from 9 to 12 November 2010.

According to the Lao National Unexploded Ordnance Program, around 270 million cluster sub-munitions were dropped on Laos in the 60s and 70s. About a third of these bomblets failed to explode and they are still killing civilians who come across them.

Once Australia has taken all the measures necessary to implement the Convention, the Government has said it will move as quickly as possible to ratify the Convention.

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