+   *    +     +     
About Us 
The Issues 
Our Research Products 
Order Publications 
Press Room 
Resources for Monitor Researchers 
Landmine Monitor
Table of Contents
Country Reports
Download PDF of country response to Human Rights Watch letter.


The Kingdom of Sweden signed the Convention on Cluster Munitions in Oslo on 3 December 2008. Sweden has started work toward ratifying the convention. In March 2009 the Ministry of Foreign Affairs reported that as a required first step, a study presenting the convention and the national measures necessary for its implementation is being carried out. A report will be produced and made publicly available upon conclusion of the study, and views on its conclusions will be sought from government agencies and NGOs. Following this, a bill will be presented to the Swedish Parliament for approval.[1]

Sweden is party to the Convention on Conventional Weapons (CCW), and was the first country to ratify Protocol V on Explosive Remnants of War on 2 June 2004.

Cluster Munition Ban Policy

In 2005, in response to a CCW questionnaire about the applicability of existing international humanitarian law to the use of cluster munitions, Sweden expressed concern that the use of submunitions with high failure rates in populated areas was “likely to create a disproportionate suffering for the civilian population compared to the military advantage from the use of such a weapon.” Sweden also stated that the use of cluster munitions with a large footprint in populated areas could be considered to be indiscriminate.[2]

In May 2006, the Minister of Foreign Affairs announced in the Swedish Parliament that Sweden would pursue a mandate in the CCW to negotiate an instrument regulating cluster munitions.[3] While Sweden would work toward a ban on certain cluster munitions, Minister of Defense Mikael Odenberg stated that the ban would not include the Swedish cluster munitions BK-90, as he claimed “it is a type of cluster weapon with high reliability levels and does not leave behind unexploded submunitions that risk harming innocent civilians.”[4]

At a CCW meeting in September 2006, Sweden and Austria took the lead in introducing for consideration at the November Review Conference a draft mandate to begin negotiations on cluster munitions.[5] In October 2006, a motion was introduced in the Swedish Parliament calling for a ban on the use, production, and trade of cluster munitions and the destruction of Sweden’s stockpiles. It further called for Sweden’s commitment to pursue an international ban and to take steps at the national level as well.[6] The motion was rejected.

In November 2006, at the Third Review Conference of the CCW, Sweden introduced a proposal to negotiate a legally-binding instrument “that addresses the humanitarian concerns posed by cluster munitions.”[7] After the mandate was rejected by a number of other countries, Sweden read a declaration, endorsed by 25 other states, calling for an agreement that would prohibit the use of cluster munitions “within concentrations of civilians,” prohibit the use of cluster munitions that “pose serious humanitarian hazards because they are for example unreliable and/or inaccurate,” and require destruction of stockpiles of such cluster munitions.[8]

Norway then announced that it would start an independent process outside the CCW to negotiate a cluster munition treaty and invited other governments to join. A voluntary “Core Group” of countries emerged to take responsibility for moving forward what became known as the Oslo Process. Sweden was initially one of six countries in the group, but soon dropped out largely due to backsliding in domestic policy.[9]

Sweden participated in the initial conference to launch the Oslo Process in Oslo in February 2007, and endorsed the Oslo Declaration committing states to conclude a convention prohibiting cluster munitions that cause unacceptable harm to civilians in 2008. While it did not attend the next Oslo Process meeting in Lima, it participated in the other two international conferences to develop the convention in Vienna and Wellington, as well as the formal negotiations in Dublin in May 2008.[10]

At the Oslo conference in February 2007, Sweden advocated for an approach that would prohibit some cluster munitions and place regulations on the use of others. Sweden stated that it expected to keep its stockpiles of BK-90 cluster munitions “for the time being.” Sweden claimed that its BK-90s with self-destruct mechanisms had a failure rate of 1–2% and thus “there are no dangerous duds left in the area.”[11]

In June 2007, the Swedish Peace and Arbitration Society (SPAS) founded a Swedish network against cluster munitions, consisting of ten organizations. This network was very active in lobbying the Swedish government to change its position on the BK-90 and to support the Oslo Process.

During the Vienna conference, Sweden continued to maintain that a future treaty should not prohibit all cluster munitions and noted that a number of proposals had been presented suggesting different technical features that might be used to exempt a cluster munitions from prohibition.[12]

Shortly before the Wellington conference, 12-year-old Ayat Suliman, a cluster munition survivor from Iraq living in Sweden, handed a petition containing over 12,000 signatures calling for a ban on cluster munitions to the Swedish government. The petition called on Sweden to scrap its BK-90 cluster bombs and support an international ban.[13]

At the Wellington conference, Sweden clarified its position on the definition of a cluster munition and the scope of the prohibition of a future treaty. Of the many proposals for exceptions based on technical features, Sweden stated, “We believe that one essential feature, in considering current and…future munitions, must be electrical fail safe systems which embrace both self-destruct and self-deactivation mechanisms. The rationale for electrical systems is that batteries always discharge and render the munitions inoperable. In addition, we propose that cluster munitions with an internal guidance system–including sensors–to aid accuracy should be a prominent feature.”[14] These requirements should be cumulative, Sweden proposed.[15]

Sweden also called for the inclusion of a transition period “of a reasonable time” to allow states to phase out their cluster munitions.[16] Sweden supported the inclusion of provisions on “interoperability” (joint military operations with states not party) in the text.[17] At the conclusion of the Wellington conference, Sweden endorsed the Wellington Declaration indicating its intention to participate fully in the Dublin negotiations, but associated itself with the statement of the so-called like-minded countries, delivered by France, which expressed frustration with the proceedings of the Wellington conference.[18]

During the Dublin negotiations, Sweden continued to advocate for exemptions for munitions based on the criteria of electrical fail-safe mechanisms, self-destruct and self-deactivation mechanisms, and internal guidance systems.[19] Sweden also continued to argue for a transition period, which it stated would be a “decisive element” in its support for the convention,[20] and for provisions on interoperability.[21] At the conclusion of the negotiations, even though the definition prohibited the BK-90 and there was no transition period, Sweden joined the consensus to adopt the convention.

On 1 June 2008 the Swedish pension fund AP 7 announced that it would sell off its holdings in companies involved in the production of cluster munitions. AP 7, one of Sweden’s seven government-owned pension funds, manages around 90 billion kronor.[22] Four other Swedish pension funds followed suit in September 2008.[23]

Despite adopting the convention, there was uncertainty as to whether Sweden would sign in December in Oslo.[24] In September 2008, Sweden was still apparently undecided and was waiting to see the outcome of the work in the CCW. According to an interview with Swedish International Radio, Swedish Minister of Foreign Affairs Carl Bildt stated that a problem with the Convention on Cluster Munitions was that it failed to include the major users of cluster munitions.[25]

Sweden continued to support efforts to reach consensus on a draft instrument on cluster munitions in the CCW. During the final session of CCW negotiations in November 2008, Sweden expressed some concerns about weaknesses in the draft text under consideration, but supported the inclusion of provisions for cluster munitions with self-destruct and self-deactivation mechanisms, and welcomed the inclusion of a 1% failure rate limit based on testing.[26]

On 16 November 2008, as CCW negotiations drew to a close with no outcome in sight, Sweden’s Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt announced that Sweden would sign the Convention on Cluster Munitions. He stated that the decision was an important part of Sweden’s disarmament ambitions. “We will have to phase out the Swedish [BK-90] from our own supplies,” Mr. Reinfeldt said, adding that Sweden’s decision to sign came after an investigation by its armed forces on the implications for Sweden and cost estimates for the acquisition of alternative weapons.[27]

Still, in November, Sweden did not join 26 states that issued a joint statement expressing their opposition to the weak draft text on a possible CCW protocol on cluster munitions, indicating it was an unacceptable step back from the standards set by the Convention on Cluster Munitions.[28]

Upon signing the convention in Oslo, Sweden’s ambassador stated that “Sweden particularly values the strong commitment…to victim assistance, and the recognition, both in the preamble and in several articles of the Convention, of the need to see and defend the interests of vulnerable groups—women and children, families and communities.” Sweden was one of a small number of states that explicitly mentioned the CCW in its remarks during the signing conference. Sweden stated that “a successful outcome next year within the CCW process in the form a new Protocol on cluster munitions, we believe, could assist States not in a position to join the Convention [on Cluster Munitions] now, to do so in the future.”[29]

Use, Production, Stockpiling, and Transfer

According to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, “Sweden has never used or transferred cluster munitions as defined in the Convention [on Cluster Muntions].”[30]

The Swedish Air Force stockpiles one type of cluster munition, the Bombkapsel BK-90 Mjölner, which dispenses MJ-1 fragmentation bomblets and MJ-2 anti-armor proximity-fuzed bomblets.[31] Sweden has reported that the failure rate of the bomblets is less than 1% and if the submunitions become duds on the ground, they are designed to self-deactivate after two hours, preventing it from being dangerous.[32] The German company LFK was the prime contractor for the BK-90 with participation of SAAB Bofors Dynamics.[33]

On 3 December 2008, the day that Sweden signed the convention, the Ministry of Defense sent a request to the Swedish Armed Forces to “start planning for the phasing-out of the cluster munition weapons system ‘Bombkapsel 90 (BK 90)’.” By 1 September 2009, “a time schedule and cost estimate for the dismantling of the system should be reported back to the Ministry of Defence.” [34]

Sweden also produces and stockpiles the BONUS sensor-fuzed weapon, a 155mm artillery projectile with two submunitions. BONUS is not considered a cluster munition under the terms of the Convention on Cluster Munitions because it meets the five technical criteria set out by negotiators as necessary to avoid the negative effects of cluster munitions.[35] BONUS is co-produced in Sweden by BAE Systems Bofors and is in service with the Swedish Armed Forces. French partners include Nexter (formerly GIAT Industries) and Intertechniques SA of Plaisir.[36]

[1] Letter from Amb. Lars-Erik Wingren, Department for Disarmament and Non-proliferation, Ministry for Foreign Affairs, 24 March 2009. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs stated that Sweden’s ratification of the Mine Ban Treaty took approximately one and a half years, but it was not possible to give an estimate on the length of the ratification process of the Convention on Cluster Munitions.

[2] Response from Sweden, “Responses to Document CCW/GGE/X/WG.1/WP.2, entitled IHL and ERW, Dated 8 March 2005,” CCW/GGE/XI/WG.1/WP.8, July 29, 2005, p. 2.

[3] Betankande 2006/07:UU12 Strategisk exportkontroll (Strategic export controls) 2006, www.riksdagen.se.

[4] “Tough international criticism of Odenberg’s views on cluster bombs,” Sveriges Radio, transcript of interview of Mikael Odenberg, 11 May 2006, www.wilpf.int.ch.

[5] Procedural Report, Fifteenth Session of the CCW Group of Government Experts (GGE), CCW/CONF.III/7 and CCW/GGE/XV/6, Geneva, 13 October 2006, p.17.

[6] The motion stated that Sweden’s stockpile of cluster munitions served no security purpose and did not fit its new defense policy objectives. It said that despite the claim that Sweden’s cluster munitions had a failure rate of 1%, this would still lead to large amounts of unexploded ordnance disseminated over a large radius. Motion 2006/07:U299 Klustervapen (Cluster munition) av Gunilla Wahlén m.fl. (v), 20 October 2006, www.riksdagen.se.

[7] Proposal for a Mandate to Negotiate a Legally-Binding Instrument that Addresses the Humanitarian Concerns Posed by Cluster Munitions, Presented by Austria, Holy See, Ireland, Mexico, New Zealand, and Sweden, Third Review Conference of the States Parties to the CCW, Geneva, CCW/CONF.III/WP.1, Geneva, 25 October 2006.

[8] Declaration on Cluster Munitions, Third Review Conference of the States Parties to the CCW, CCW/CONF.III/WP.18, Geneva, 17 November 2006.

[9] See Stephen Goose, “Cluster Munitions: Ban Them,” Arms Control Today, January/February 2008, p. 9.

[10] It also attended the regional conference in Brussels in October 2007.

[11] Statement of Sweden, Oslo Conference on Cluster Munitions, 23 February 2007. Notes by CMC/WILPF.

[12] Statement of Sweden, Vienna Conference on Cluster Munitions, 5 December 2007. Notes by CMC/WILPF.

[13] SPAS, “Svårt skadad av klusterbomber; Imorgon överlämnar hon ett upprop till regeringen” (“Severely wounded by cluster bombs; Tomorrow she submits a petition to the government”), Press release, 12 February 2008, www.svenskafreds.se.

[14] Proposals by Sweden, Draft Article 2 on Definitions, Wellington Conference on Cluster Munitions, 18–22 February 2008.

[15] Suggestions by Sweden, Draft Article 2(c) on defintions, Wellington Conference, 18–22 February 2008.

[16] Sweden proposed that the length of the transition period should not be longer than the period proposed for stockpile destruction, or six years with a 10-year extension. Statement of Sweden, Session on Definition and Scope, Wellington Conference, 18 February 2008. Notes by the CMC.

[17] Proposals by Sweden, Draft Article 1 – Scope and Obligations, Wellington Conference, 18–22 February 2008.

[18] Statement by France on behalf of the like-minded countries, Closing Plenary, Wellington Conference, 22 February 2008.

[19] Statement of Sweden, Informal Discussions on Definitions, Dublin Diplomatic Conference on Cluster Munitions, 21 May 2008. Notes by Landmine Action. On 19 May 2008, Swedish Undersecretary of State for Foreign Affairs Frank Belfrage stated in a radio interview that while the government was seeking to ban cluster munitions that caused unacceptable harm to civilians, it wanted “to continue producing and selling the [BK-90] because this cluster bomb would not be as dangerously destructive as other weapons.” Opposition Social Democrats, however, were now in favor of a broader prohibition on these weapons. “Sweden Rejects Total Ban on Cluster Bombs,” Swedish Radio International, 19 May 2008, www.sr.se.

[20] Statement of Sweden, Committee of the Whole on Article 1, Dublin Diplomatic Conference, 19 May 2008. Notes by Landmine Action.

[21] Statement of Sweden, Informal Discussions on Interoperability, Dublin Diplomatic Conference, 20 May 2008. Notes by Landmine Action.

[22] “Swedish pension fund AP 7 sells all holdings in companies making cluster bombs,” International Herald Tribune, 1 June 2008, www.iht.com.

[23] Hugh Wheelan, “Sweden’s AP Funds Sell Off Millions in Cluster Munition Shares,” The Responsible Investor, 15 September 2008, www.responsible-investor.com.

[24] “Uncertainty over cluster bomb ban,” Swedish Radio International, 30 May 2008, www.sr.se.

[25] “Sweden wavers over cluster bomb ban,” Swedish Radio International, 25 September 2008, www.sr.se. In the face of this uncertainty, in late October the Swedish Peace and Arbitration Society and Swedish network against cluster munitions launched an extensive email and letter writing campaign targeting Prime Minister Reinfeldt to sign the Convention. CMC, “Report on the Global Week of Action to Ban Cluster Bombs,” 28 October – 2 November 2008,” www.stopclustermunitions.org.

[26] Statement of Sweden, Fifth 2008 Session of the CCW GGE on Cluster Munitions, Geneva, 4 November 2008. Notes by Landmine Action.

[27] “Sverige undertecknar klustervapenförbud” (“Sweden signs cluster bomb ban”), Nyheter från Sveriges Radio – Ekot (News from Swedish Radio – Ekot), www.sr.se.

[28] Statement delivered by Costa Rica on behalf of Austria, Belgium, Benin, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Chile, Croatia, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Holy See, Honduras, Indonesia, Ireland, Lebanon, Mexico, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Norway, Peru, Philippines, Senegal, South Africa, Uganda, Uruguay, and Venezuela, Fifth 2008 Session of the CCW GGE on Cluster Munitions, Geneva, 5 November 2008.

[29] Statement by Amb. Michael Sahlin, Convention on Cluster Munitions Signing Conference, Oslo, 3–4 December 2008.

[30] Letter from Amb. Lars-Erik Wingren, Ministry for Foreign Affairs, 24 March 2009.

[31] Robert Hewson, ed., Jane’s Air-Launched Weapons, Issue 44 (Surrey, UK: Jane’s Information Group Limited, 2004), pp. 360–361.

[32] Communication from the Swedish Ministry of Foreign Affairs, “Brevsvar klusterammunition,” to Pax Christi Netherlands, January 14, 2005.

[33] Robert Hewson, ed., Jane’s Air-Launched Weapons, Issue 44 (Surrey, UK: Jane’s Information Group Limited, 2004), p. 361.

[34] Letter from Amb. Lars-Erik Wingren, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 24 March 2009.

[35] Article 2.2(c) excludes munitions with submunitions if they have less than 10 submunitions, and each submunition weighs more than four kilograms, can detect and engage a single target object, and is equipped with electronic self-destruction and self-deactivation features.

[36] Leland S. Ness and Anthony G. Williams, eds., Jane’s Ammunition Handbook 2007–2008 (Surrey, UK: Jane’s Information Group Limited, 2007), pp. 661–662.