Holy See simultaneously signs and ratifies cluster munitions treaty

The Holy See has ratified a convention banning the creation and use of cluster munitions in an attempt to highlight its solidarity with victims of the weapons and to urge others to become signers of the ban.

At a ceremony in Oslo, Norway on Wednesday, Archbishop Dominique Mamberti, the Vatican’s Secretary for Relations with States, explained that the Holy See chose to immediately ratify the agreement for two reasons.

Archbishop Mamberti stated that the Holy See took the unusual step of immediately ratifying the treaty to "send out a powerful political signal" and 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."

The treaty prohibits the use, production, transfer and stockpiling of cluster bombs. Signatory nations pledge to clear affected areas within 10 years, declare and destroy stockpiled cluster munitions within eight years, assist affected countries with clearance, and provide comprehensive assistance to victims of the munitions. After 30 nations have signed and ratified the treaty, it will go into effect.

A press release from the Vatican added that, "The Holy See considers the Convention on cluster munitions an important step in the protection of civilians during and after conflicts, from the indiscriminate effects of this inhumane type of weapon."

Branislav Kapetanovi, a survivor of an encounter with a cluster bomb, described the treaty as setting the "highest standard to date for victim assistance" he also added that it "will make a real difference to affected people and communities around the world."

The Vatican also sees the implementation of the treaty as a "legal and humanitarian challenge for the near future" that must involve the cooperation of governments and NGOs and should "reinforce the link between disarmament and development."

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