SAN JOSE – Costa Rican President Luis Guillermo Solis has opened an international conference on so-called “cluster weapons” and called for a ban on the munitions which are of particular danger to civilians caught in conflict zones.
In his speech on Monday, Solis emphasized the need to raise the voices of those opposed to the weapons and “move from protest to action and go forward without delay” in the elimination of cluster bombs.
He was addressing representatives from countries and international organizations attending the fifth meeting of the State Parties of the Convention on Cluster Munitions which is working to ban such weapons and encourage more countries to join the cause.
Cluster bombs and artillery shells contain hundreds of tiny bomblets which are dispersed over wide areas when the delivery system explodes.
“Cluster munitions are particularly unacceptable because of their scattered and non-localized detonations that can remain active for decades and then result in the mutilation and deaths of innocent people, destroy families, schools, hospitals and farmland, exacerbate poverty and limit economic development,” Solis said.
Data provided by the Costa Rican Foreign Ministry shows that 23 countries are affected by cluster munitions which have killed or mutilated more than 100,000 people, 98 percent of whom were civilians.
Costa Rica, which holds the presidency of the meeting until 2015, aims to encourage countries that have not yet ratified the convention to complete the steps towards joining.
The convention is a legally-binding instrument that prohibits all use, production, possession, stockpiling and transfer of cluster munitions.
It also requires destroying stockpiles of the munitions and cleaning up the areas where cluster weapons are present.
The representative of the Coalition Against Cluster Munitions, Jesus Martinez, said at the opening ceremony that “any use of these weapons should be condemned.”
“There is nothing more powerful than the voice of the countries to strengthen the established norm. This week, please commit to publicly condemn the use of cluster munitions in Syria, Ukraine and Southern Sudan,” Martinez said.
Under the convention, more than one million such weapons have been destroyed along with 140 million submunitions, representing 80 percent of the reported total, according to the “Cluster Munitions Monitor Report,” released in Washington last week.
The same study said that the primary use of cluster bombs in the world occurred in Syria in 2012 and 2013, with some 1,584 victims.
Their use has also been detected in eastern Ukraine and Southern Sudan.
The data is to be further analyzed and discussed at the meeting where attendees will also assess progress and identify the challenges which remain in fully implementing the convention.
A total of 113 countries have joined the convention, of which 84 have ratified or adopted the document although the United States, Russia and China, all major producers of cluster bombs and shells, have not.
Costa Rica ratified the convention three years ago. The meeting ends Friday.