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Country Reports


The Republic of Colombia signed the Convention on Cluster Munitions in Oslo on 3 December 2008. In March 2009, Colombian Ministry of Defense officials stated that the documentation required for Congress to ratify the treaty was being prepared.[1]

Colombia is party to the Convention on Conventional Weapons (CCW), but has yet to ratify Protocol V on Explosive Remnants of War.[2]

Cluster Munition Ban Policy

Colombia was not an early or consistent supporter of a ban or new restrictions on cluster munitions. Colombia did not support a proposal in the CCW in October 2006 to establish an open-ended Group of Governmental Experts to negotiate a legally-binding instrument that addresses the humanitarian concerns posed by cluster munitions.[3]

Colombia attended the initial conference convened by Norway to launch the Oslo Process in February 2007. States participating in the Oslo meeting had to opt-out if they did not wish to endorse the Oslo Declaration, committing states to conclude a new treaty prohibiting cluster munitions in 2008. While Colombia did not express any objection at the time, on three separate occasions in 2007 and 2008 the Colombian government contacted representatives of the CMC asking for Colombia to be removed from the Oslo Declaration endorsers list.[4]

Colombia subsequently participated in the international treaty preparatory conference in Lima in May 2007 and the regional conference in Costa Rica in September 2007, but did not make any substantial interventions. At a CCW meeting in November 2007, Colombia stated that it was not ready to support a new treaty on cluster munitions, as it believed more clarity was needed on definitions, obligations, requirements, and limitations.[5]

Colombia did not attend the Oslo Process preparatory conference in Wellington in February 2008. It attended the subsequent regional meeting in Mexico in April 2008, but did not join other Latin American states in endorsing the Wellington Declaration, which committed states to participate in the formal negotiations in Dublin.[6] Colombia did not attend the Dublin negotiations in May 2008.

However, Colombia sent a senior-level delegation to the Oslo Process regional conference in Ecuador on 6–7 November 2008, and during a meeting with campaigners, the Colombian delegation was very positive about the possibility of signing in Oslo.[7]

Colombia’s Permanent Representative to the UN in Geneva, Ambassador Clemencia Forero Ucros, signed the Convention on Cluster Munitions in Oslo in December. In a statement, she described the treaty as a “significant advance” in international humanitarian law and said it was the “humanitarian impact” of cluster munitions that led to Colombia’s decision to sign.[8]

Use, Production, Stockpiling, and Transfer

There are reports that a Colombian helicopter used a World War II-era dispenser of United States origin, more akin to a weapons rack than a modern cluster bomb, to drop several 20lb (9kg) fragmentation bombs during an attack on the village of Santo Domingo in 1998.[9] These weapons are not considered cluster munitions under the Convention on Cluster Munitions.

The CMC has received information from Colombian military sources that Colombia stockpiles four types of cluster munitions: CB-250K bombs produced by Chile; M971 120mm mortar projectiles produced by Israel which contain 24 dual purpose improved conventional munitions (DPICM) self-destructing submunitions; ARC 32 bombs (apparently a 350kg weapon containing 32 antirunway submunitions produced by Israel); and, AN-M41 “cluster adapter” (the weapon delivery system used in the attack on Santo Domingo mentioned above).[10]

In March 2009, Colombian Ministry of Defense officials stated that Colombia would destroy 41 stockpiled CB-250K cluster munitions between 24 March and 3 April 2009.[11]

[1] Meeting between Ministry of Defense and Sylvie Brigot, Executive Director, ICBL, and the Colombian Campaign Against Landmines (CCCM), 6 March 2009. Notes by CCCM.

[2] In 2007, Colombia issued a statement saying its decision not to ratify the Protocol was due to the findings of an inter-institutional study group. The group identified “obstacles, objections, and impediments which create a gap between [Colombia’s] willingness to comply and its real ability to assume the necessary responsibilities and obligations.” Letter from Vladimir Gonzalez, Deputy Head of Mission, Embassy of Colombia to the United Kingdom, to Simon Conway, Director, Landmine Action, 19 December 2007; and Annex, “Colombia’s Official Position on Protocol V on Explosive Remnants of War, 2007.”

[3] The proposal was put forward by Austria, Holy See, Ireland, Mexico, New Zealand, and Sweden, and formally supported by 20 other states (Argentina, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Chile, Costa Rica, Czech Republic, Denmark, Germany, Guatemala, Hungary, Italy, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Peru, Portugal, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, and Switzerland); and Proposal for a Mandate to Negotiate a Legally-Binding Instrument that Addresses the Humanitarian Concerns Posed by Cluster Munitions, Third Review Conference of the States Parties to the CCW, Geneva, CW/CONF.III/WP.1, 25 October 2006.

[4] Letter from José Nicolás Rivas Zubira, Director of Multilateral Political Affairs, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, to Alvaro Jiménez Míllan, Director, CCCM, 14 June 2007; letter from Vladimir Gonzalez, Embassy of Colombia to the UK, 19 December 2007; and letter from Nohra Maria Quintero, Coordinator, Internal Working Group on Disarmament and International Security, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, to Thomas Nash, Coordinator, CMC, 28 April 2008.

[5] Statement of Colombia, 2007 Meeting of the States Parties to the CCW, Geneva, 7 November 2007. Notes by WILPF.

[6] Regional Conference on Cluster Munitions, Mexico City, 16–17 April 2008. Notes by CMC.

[7] Regional Conference on Cluster Munitions, Quito, 7 November 2008. Notes by CMC.

[8] Statement by Amb. Clemencia Forero Ucros, Permanent Representative of Colombia to the UN in Geneva, Convention on Cluster Munitions Signing Conference, Oslo, 3 December 2008.

[9] See for example, T. Christian Miller, “A Colombian Village Caught in a Cross-Fire: The Bombing of Santo Domingo Shows How Messy U.S. Involvement in the Latin American Drug War Can Be,” Los Angeles Times, 17 March 2002.

[10] CMC meeting with the Colombian delegation to the Regional Conference on Cluster Munitions, Quito, 7 November 2008. Notes by CMC. Human Rights Watch and Landmine Action are unfamiliar with the ARC 32 bombs, and are not aware of any of the technical details about them. It is unclear if these weapons are banned under the convention.

[11] Meeting between Ministry of Defense and Sylvie Brigot, ICBL, and CCCM, 6 March 2009. Notes by CCCM.