Feinstein and Leahy, Joined By Others In Senate And House, Introduce Cluster Munitions Bill

Senators Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and Patrick Leahy and Congressman Jim McGovern (D-Mass.) have introduced the Cluster Munitions Civilian Protection Act, 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.

Leahy said:  “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.  Our bill would put in place strict criteria to reduce harm to innocents, but the Pentagon should end its use of these indiscriminate weapons.”

Leahy, the Vice Chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, has long led in addressing the ravages faced by the innocent victims of war.  He is the leading U.S. officeholder championing an end to the use of anti-personnel landmines, and other legislation he has written established the Leahy War Victims Fund, which aids civilian victims of war in conflict areas across the globe.

“These indiscriminate weapons have left a legacy of unexploded munitions in war-torn areas,” said Feinstein, chief sponsor of the bill.  “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.”

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.).

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