Holy See Gets Cluster Bomb Convention Rolling

Signs Agreement and Immediately Ratifies It

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OSLO, Norway, DEC. 4, 2008 (Zenit.org).- To send a message of solidarity with victims, the Holy See has signed and ratified on the same day a convention prohibiting the use and stockpiling of cluster bombs.

Archbishop Dominique Mamberti, secretary for Vatican relations with states, attended the two-day signing ceremony in Oslo. The text of the convention was hammered out in May in Ireland. The agreement will go into effect once 30 nations have ratified it, a process the Holy See got rolling the same day as the signing.

Ninety-three nations have already signed the convention.

Archbishop Mamberti said that «in order to send out a powerful political signal, the Holy See is ratifying this convention on the same day as the signing. In the first place we wish to express to victims the human proximity of the Holy See and its institutions.

«We also wish to launch an appeal to states — especially to the producers, exporters and potential consumers of cluster munitions — to join the current signatories, so as to assure victims, and all countries gravely affected by these arms, that their message has been understood.»

Big arms producers — such as the United States, Russia and China — have not signed on to the convention.

Cluster bombs are made of cargo containers with bomblets that disperse when the containers are fired. The submunitions are designed to explode when they hit a target. However, the little bombs spread over a vast area and often remain undetonated for years, endangering passers-by long after conflicts have concluded. Many of the victims of cluster bombs are children, who pick up the bomblets — some of which are only a few inches long — thinking they are toys.

A declaration accompanying Archbishop Mamberti’s speech stated that «in ratifying the convention […] the Holy See desires to encourage the entire international community to be resolute in promoting effective disarmament and arms control negotiations and in strengthening international humanitarian law by reaffirming the pre-eminent and inherent value of human dignity [and] the centrality of the human person […] elements that constitute the basis of international humanitarian law.»

The document acknowledges that the challenge of ending the use of cluster bombs is not over.

«An effective implementation should be based on constructive cooperation of all governmental and non governmental actors and should reinforce the link between disarmament and development,» it said. «This can be done by directing human and material resources toward development, justice and peace, which are the most effective means to promote international security and a peaceful international order.»

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