Members of Congress Introduce Bipartisan Cluster Munitions Bill

U.S. Senators Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and U.S. Representatives Jim McGovern (D-MA) and Darrell Issa (R-CA) introduced the Cluster Munitions Civilian Protection Act this week, a bill to restrict the use and export of dangerous cluster munitions.

Cluster munitions are bombs, rockets or artillery shells that contain submunitions that, when deployed, can leave behind unexploded ordnance. This unexploded ordnance can be buried in land, hidden from view or lay in plain sight and be mistaken for toys or even air-dropped assistance. They ultimately become harmful to civilians for generations.

Cluster bombs have contaminated 24 countries including Laos, Lebanon and Ukraine. In 2015, civilians in at least eight countries died from these weapons.

“Every year countless innocent civilians are injured and killed by cluster munitions, including U.S. made bombs which have recently been used in Yemen. As a world leader, America has a solemn responsibility to stand up for human rights and must join the more than 100 nations that have agreed to never again use or export these weapons by signing the Convention on Cluster Munitions,” said Congressman McGovern. “The lives and welfare of civilians, including young children, continue to be threatened in Yemen and elsewhere as they return to areas contaminated by cluster munitions, which are de facto minefields. Our bill would take strong steps to reduce harm to innocent civilians and strengthen our export controls, but this is only one step. President Trump and Secretary Mattis must take action and end the use of these indiscriminate weapons altogether.”

“These indiscriminate weapons have left a legacy of unexploded munitions in war-torn areas,” said Senator Feinstein. “While the United States has not widely used cluster munitions since the 2003 invasion of Iraq, U.S.-made cluster bombs have recently been used in Yemen, endangering civilians. The United States should join the more than 100 nations that have agreed to never again use or export these weapons by signing the Convention on Cluster Munitions. This legislation would encourage the administration to do exactly that.”

“Cluster munitions, which are scattered by the thousands over a wide area, have caused horrific suffering and death among civilians in every conflict in which they have been used, often years after the fighting ended,” said Senator Leahy. “Our bill would put in place strict criteria to reduce harm to innocents, but the Pentagon should end its use of these indiscriminate weapons.”

To date, 100 nations have ratified the Oslo Convention on Cluster Munitions, a 2008 treaty that prohibits the production, stockpiling, sale or use of cluster munitions. The United States has not signed or ratified the treaty, and while this legislation would not bring the United States into compliance, it moves the country much closer to the growing international consensus against cluster weapons.

This bill builds on existing U.S. policies restricting the use of cluster munitions, and would ensure that exported U.S.-made cluster munitions do not endanger civilians.

More specifically, the bill:

• Prohibits the U.S. military from using cluster munitions if greater than one percent of the weapon’s submunitions result in unexploded ordnance.
• Restricts cluster munition exports unless the receiving country agrees that they will be only used against clearly defined military targets and not in civilian areas.
• Encourages the United States to accede to the Convention on Cluster Munitions as soon as possible.

In the Senate, the legislation is cosponsored by Senators Feinstein, Leahy, Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Al Franken (D-Minn.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), Patty Murray (D-Wash.), Bernie Sanders (D-Vt.), Tom Udall (D-N.M.), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), Ed Markey (D-Mass.) and Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.). In the House, the bill is cosponsored by Congressmen McGovern and Darrell Issa (R-Calif.).