Today’s news reports that the UK Government plans to water down laws banning cluster bombs has generated much attention on the Twitter-sphere, but very little from the Prime Minister according to one Tweeter.
If successful, the UK’s negotiations with the US and other nation states would lead to the creation of another global agreement to monitor the use of cluster bombs, with this one setting a lower standard than the existing global treaty banning the weapons.
Not only would this be confusing as it would create a twin-track process of globally regulating these weapons, but it would also have deadly consequences.
Cluster bombs are indiscriminate weapons. They are currently banned under UK and international law for good reason: they cause devastation to civilians and continue to kill and maim years after wars have ended, as they frequently fail to go off when initially fused.
By agreeing with the US that it's okay to allow the use of many weapons produced after 1980 and also much newer version of cluster bombs, not only is the UK Government opening the floodgates to the creation of ‘safe versions’ of cluster bombs, it's also sending a signal that it doesn't believe in its own laws and neither do they think that these horrendous weapons should be consigned to history. (And all this on a day when Deutche Bank has become the latest bank to agree to stop investing in cluster-munitions producing companies.)
Doublespeak from the UK Government on an issue as serious as this is really not helpful.
And certainly not months before it is due to make one of the most important global decisions it will ever have to make on the arms trade when it negotiates for an international Arms Trade Treaty at the UN next July.
It sends a worrying precedent that the UK in the rush to secure diplomatic agreements, will be all to ready to compromise on core measures absolutely necessary to stop arms ending up in the hands of human rights violators. A treaty that doesn't not stop these abuses is simply not worth the paper its written on.
The UK Government has to stop equivocating. It’s time for them to stand by their actions and do nothing to reduce the strength of the existing cluster bombs ban.
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