Cluster Munition Ban Policy

Last updated: 12 August 2015

Five-Year Review: Signatory Iceland’s deposit of its ratification instrument with the UN was imminent when Cluster Munition Monitor 2015 went to print. Iceland enacted implementing legislation in July 2015 that also approved its ratification of the convention. Iceland states that it has never used, produced, transferred, or stockpiled cluster munitions.


The Republic of Iceland signed the Convention on Cluster Munitions on 3 December 2008.

As of 27 July 2015, Iceland had completed the domestic process of ratification and all that remained was the final step of depositing the ratification instrument with the UN in New York.

Iceland’s parliament (Althingi) adopted ratification legislation, which also serves as its implementing legislation for the convention, on 30 June 2015 that was then signed into law on 10 July 2015. Law 83 imposes penal sanctions of between six months and four years’ imprisonment as well as fines for violations of its ban on the use, production, transfer, and stockpiling of cluster munitions. The legislation does not explicitly address the question of assistance with those activities. Law 83 applies to both individuals and companies, and it covers actions committed outside its borders by Icelandic citizens and legal entities.[1]

Iceland engaged in the Oslo Process that created the Convention on Cluster Munitions.[2] Iceland attended a conference on the destruction of cluster munitions in Berlin in June 2009.

Iceland participated in the convention’s Third Meeting of States Parties in Oslo, Norway in September 2012. This was its first and to date only attendance at a meeting of the convention.

On 23 March 2015, Iceland’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Gunnar Bragi Sveinsson, introduced the “Bill on the implementation of the Convention on Cluster Munitions” into the Icelandic parliament.[3] After its first reading, on 30 April 2015, the Bill was referred to the Foreign Affairs Committee for consideration. Four local NGOs made submissions to the committee by a deadline of 15 May 2015, all in support of the draft legislation and proposed ratification: Amnesty International-Iceland, Human Rights Centre, Iceland Women’s Culture and Peace Organization, and the Civilians Against War (Hernaðarandstæðinga) Association.[4]

The committee considered the draft legislation at five meetings between 5 May and 9 June 2015, when its nine members recommended by consensus that the Bill be adopted unchanged. The committee’s report noted that five years had passed since the convention’s entry into force and said that “the emphasis is ratification by Iceland as soon as possible.” [5]

The Bill was read a second time on 29 June and then a third and final time on 30 June 2015, when it was adopted by a vote of 51 in favor and none against.[6] President Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson signed the Bill on 10 July 2015 and it was then published in the Official Journal on 22 July 2015.[7]

Icelandic officials have responded regularly to CMC and Monitor inquiries on the status of its ratification of the convention.[8]

Iceland voted in favor of UN General Assembly (UNGA) Resolution 69/189 on 18 December 2014, which expressed “outrage” at the continued use of cluster munitions in Syria.[9]

On interpretive issues relating to the convention, Iceland has made a strong statement on “interoperability” and the prohibition on assistance. Iceland has stated that Article 21 (on relations with states not party) should not be seen as undercutting the obligation in Article 1 not to assist with any activity prohibited by the convention, even during joint military operations with states not party to the convention.[10]

Iceland has not elaborated its views on other important issues relating to the interpretation and implementation of the convention, such as the prohibition on transit, the prohibition on investment in the production of cluster munitions, or the prohibition on foreign stockpiling of cluster munitions. In 2013, a Ministry for Foreign Affairs official said that Iceland would state its views on these interpretive issues once it has ratified.[11] The implementation law is silent on these issues.

Iceland is a State Party to the Mine Ban Treaty. It is also party to the Convention on Conventional Weapons. Iceland was the first Arms Trade Treaty signatory to ratify on 2 July 2013.

Use, production, transfer, and stockpiling

Iceland has stated that it has never stockpiled, used, produced, or transferred cluster munitions.[12]

According to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Iceland does not possess any cluster munitions.[13]

[1] Law 83, “Act on the implementation of the Convention on Cluster Munitions” (“Lög um framkvæmd samnings um klasasprengjur”), 10 July 2015.

[2] For details on Iceland’s cluster munition policy and practice through early 2009, see Human Rights Watch and Landmine Action, Banning Cluster Munitions: Government Policy and Practice (Ottawa: Mines Action Canada, May 2009), p. 91. According to a 2007 US diplomatic cable released publicly by Wikileaks in 2011, the US sought to engage senior Icelandic officials during the Oslo Process with respect to US concerns about “interoperability” (joint military operations with states not party). In a May 2007 meeting, the US reportedly explained that a draft “Lima” text “would have an immediate negative impact on NATO operations and other joint military activities which Iceland has expressed its support for.” The cable concluded that because “Iceland has no military, there are few voices within the GOI that will argue for -- or be naturally inclined to agree with -- the military necessity of cluster munitions, meaning the default policy will likely be one of supporting Norwegian efforts. In response, Post will increase our engagement with those actors more open to NATO-related concerns on a cluster munitions ban.” See, “Iceland not in favor of cluster munitions ban, but is closely following Norwegian position,” US Department of State cable 07REYKJAVIK154 dated 22 May 2007, released by Wikileaks on 1 September 2011.

[3] See the webpage for Bill 637: “Implementation of the Convention on Cluster Munitions” (“Framkvæmd samnings um klasasprengju”), undated but 2015.

[4] Only one submission had been posted to the parliamentary website as of 1 August 2015. The submission supported the legislation and warned Iceland against encouraging the use of cluster munitions by engaging in military cooperation with countries outside the convention, such as the United States, and it highlighted new use of cluster munitions in Yemen. Civilians Against War (Hernaðarandstæðinga) Association, Submission on Bill 637, 13 May 2015.

[5] Report of the Foreign Affairs Committee on Bill 637, 9 June 2015. Officials from Iceland’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs appeared before the committee on 5 May 2015 to present the draft legislation and take questions. See, 35th Meeting of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the 144th Legislative Session, 5 May 2015.

[6] See the voting record on parliament’s website. The final legislation is available here.

[7] Official Gazette, 22 July 2015.

[8] Statement by Ingibjörg Davíðsdóttir, Deputy Permanent Representative of the Icelandic Mission in Vienna and Chair of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe Forum for Security Cooperation, Special Event on Stockpile Destruction in Erdőkertes, Hungary, 24 March 2011. Notes by Action on Armed Violence; emails from Pétur G. Thorsteinsson, Head, Arms Control and Disarmament, Ministry for Foreign Affairs, 16 March 2010, and 5 March 2009.

[9]Situation of human rights in the Syrian Arab Republic,” UNGA Resolution A/RES/69/189, 18 December 2014. Iceland voted in favor of similar resolutions on 15 May and 18 December 2013.

[10] Upon adopting the convention text in Dublin in May 2008, Iceland stated, “While the article [21] sets out an appeal to States which are not parties to join the regime of the Convention, it recognizes the need for continuing cooperation in what is hoped will be a short transition period. This intention is captured clearly in paragraph 3 of the Article which should not be read as entitling States Parties to avoid their specific obligations under the Convention for this limited purpose. The decision to reinforce this position by listing some examples in paragraph 4 cannot therefore be interpreted to allow departures in other respects.” Statement of Iceland, Dublin Diplomatic Conference on Cluster Munitions, 30 May 2008.

[11] Email from Pétur G. Thorsteinsson, Ministry for Foreign Affairs, 6 May 2013.

[12] Ibid., 5 March 2009.

[13] Iceland Ministry of Foreign Affairs, “International Security Issues: Cluster Munitions,” August 2010.