Cluster Munition Ban Policy

Last updated: 21 July 2016

Summary: State Party Colombia ratified the convention on 10 September 2015. The deposit of its instrument of ratification occurred one month after Colombia’s president met with the CMC and pledged to complete ratification. Colombia became a State Party on 1 March 2016. Its ratification legislation also incorporates the convention into domestic law. Colombia has participated in all of the convention’s meetings and has condemned new use of cluster munitions, including in South Sudan, Syria, and Ukraine. It was a lead sponsor on a UN resolution on the convention in December 2015.

Colombia never produced cluster munitions, but it imported and used them. Colombia completed the destruction of a stockpile of 72 cluster munitions and 10,832 submunitions in November 2009. It is not retaining any cluster munitions for training or research.


The Republic of Colombia signed the Convention on Cluster Munitions on 3 December 2008, and ratified on 10 September 2015. The convention entered into force for Colombia on 1 March 2016.

Law 1604 adopted on 12 December 2012 approved Colombia’s ratification of the Convention on Cluster Munitions, incorporating it into domestic law.[1]

Colombia’s initial Article 7 transparency report is due by 28 August 2016.

Colombia participated in several meetings of the Oslo Process that produced the convention and said that its decision to join stemmed from its concern about the “humanitarian impact” of cluster munitions.[2]

Colombia’s last legislative step for approval of its ratification of the convention was a 2013 Constitutional Court review of Law 1604. On 10 August 2015, Colombia’s President, Juan Manuel Santos, met with the director of the Cluster Munition Coalition (CMC), Megan Burke, and the director of the Colombian Campaign to Ban Landmines (Campaña Colombiana Contra Minas, CCCM), Álvaro Jiménez. President Santos pledged that Colombia would ratify the convention by the First Review Conference.[3]

Colombia announced its imminent ratification of the convention during the high-level segment of the convention’s First Review Conference in Dubrovnik, Croatia on 7 September 2015. It affirmed its commitment to the convention and described their elimination as “a moral duty of the international community.”[4]

Colombia’s representative to the UN in New York deposited the ratification instrument three days later, making Colombia the 96th State Party to the convention.

For more than six years the CCCM regularly pressed the government to complete its ratification of the convention, while CMC members in more than two dozen countries joined its call for swift ratification in an April 2015 campaign action.[5]

Colombia has continued to actively engage in the work of the Convention on Cluster Munitions. It has participated in all of the convention’s annual Meetings of States Parties and the First Review Conference, as well as intersessional meeting in 2011–2015. Colombia has attended regional workshops on cluster munitions, most recently in Santiago, Chile in December 2013.

On 7 December 2015, Colombia voted in favor of a UN General Assembly (UNGA) resolution on the Convention on Cluster Munitions, which urges states outside the convention to “join as soon as possible.”[6]

Colombia has “deplored” the new use of cluster munitions, including in South Sudan, Syria, and Ukraine, and called for attacks to stop on several occasions.[7] It has voted in favor of UNGA resolutions condemning the use of cluster munitions in Syria, most recently in December 2015.[8]

Colombia is a State Party to the Mine Ban Treaty. It is also party to the Convention on Conventional Weapons.

Interpretive issues

Colombia provided its views on certain important issues related to interpretation and implementation of the convention in a March 2010 response to a Monitor questionnaire.[9] The government “absolutely rejects and prohibits any manner of transfer or storage of foreign cluster bombs in Colombian territory” as well as “military operations with states not party to the convention in which they carry out exercises or actions prohibited by the Convention.” It also prohibits investment in production of cluster munitions. In addition, “Colombia considers that the countries that are still not a part of this convention can take steps toward honoring the spirit of the convention.” Colombia reaffirmed its position on all these interpretive issues in a May 2011 response to the Monitor.[10]

Production and transfer

In a May 2011 letter to the Monitor, Colombia stated that it has never produced cluster munitions.[11] In the past, it imported cluster munitions from Chile, Israel, and the United States (US). In 2010, Colombia stated that it has not transferred cluster munitions “to a third state.”[12]

In 2012, Chile’s Ministry of National Defense provided the Monitor with a document detailing the export of a total of 191 cluster bombs to Colombia in 1994 (55 250kg cluster bombs, four air-dropped 250kg cluster bombs, and one fin stabilizer for a CB-250kg cluster bomb) and in 1997 (132 250kg cluster bombs).[13]


In an April 2012 letter to the Monitor, a Ministry of External Relations official stated that the Colombian air force decided to stop using cluster munitions after an evaluation found that they did not meet the operational requirements or needs of Colombia.[14]

In May 2009, Colombia’s Minister of Defense, Juan Manuel Santos, acknowledged that the Colombian armed forces have used cluster munitions in the past “to destroy clandestine airstrips and camps held by illegal armed groups” but noted the submunitions sometimes did not explode and “became a danger to the civilian population.”[15]

The Monitor has reported on the case of apparent cluster munition use by the Colombian air force at Santo Domingo in the municipality of Tame (Arauca) on 13 December 1998, killing 17 and injuring 27 others.[16] An investigation showed that a World War II-era “cluster adapter” of US origin was used to disperse several 20lb (9kg) fragmentation bombs during the attack.[17] At the end of December 2012, the Inter-American Human Rights Court published its verdict on the case, finding that the Colombian air force used an ANM1A2 bomb, which it said meets the definition of a cluster munition.[18] The court found that Colombia should treat victims of the attack in accordance with its victim assistance obligations under the Convention on Cluster Munitions.

Stockpiling and destruction

Colombia announced the completion of the destruction of its stockpile of cluster munitions on 24 November 2009.[19] In total, it destroyed 72 cluster munitions (31 ARC-32 and 41 CB-250K cluster bombs) containing 10,832 submunitions.[20]

Colombia has stated that it is not retaining any cluster munitions or submunitions for training or development purposes.[21]

[1] Draft ratification legislation was first introduced in the Colombian Senate on 25 March 2010 as Bill 234/10 and passed its second debate on 19 October 2010. It was then introduced to the House of Representatives as 176/10, but was archived before the first debate took place and because the time period necessary to debate and approve the legislation had expired, the legislative approval process had to be stated again. Statement of Colombia, Convention on Cluster Munitions Second Meeting of States Parties, Beirut, 14 September 2011. The House of Representatives approved the draft ratification legislation, Bill 244, on 15 November 2012, after it received Senate approval as Bill 174 on 30 August 2012.

[2] For details on Colombia’s policy and practice regarding cluster munitions through early 2009, see Human Rights Watch and Landmine Action, Banning Cluster Munitions: Government Policy and Practice (Ottawa: Mines Action Canada, May 2009), pp. 58–59.

[4] Statement of Colombia, Convention on Cluster Munitions First Review Conference, Dubrovnik, 8 September 2015.

[5] “ONG pide a Santos que ratifique la Convención sobre Municiones de Racimo,” El Espectador, 27 March 2015. See also, CMC web post, “Colombia, it’s time to get on board!,” 30 April 2015.

[6]Implementation of the Convention on Cluster Munitions,” UNGA Resolution 70/54, 7 December 2015.

[7] Statement of Colombia, Convention on Cluster Munitions Fifth Meeting of States Parties, San Jose, 2 September 2014, Notes by CMC.

[8]Situation of human rights in the Syrian Arab Republic,” UNGA Resolution 70/234, 23 December 2015. Colombia voted in favor of similar resolutions, including, “Situation of human rights in the Syrian Arab Republic,” UNGA Resolution 69/189, 18 December 2014.

[9] Email from Camilo Serna Villegas, Operations Coordinator, CCCM, 11 August 2010.

[10] Response to Monitor questionnaire by Nohra M. Quintero C., Coordinator, Internal Working Group on Disarmament and International Security, 13 May 2011.

[11] Ibid.

[12] Response to Monitor questionnaire by the Ministry of External Relations, 26 March 2010.

[13] “Exports of Cluster Bombs Authorized in the Years 1991–2001,” official document by the General Directorate of National Mobilization (Dirección General de Movilización Nacional), Ministry of National Defense document provided together with letter from Brig. Gen. Roberto Ziegele Kerber, Director-General of National Mobilizaton, Ministry of National Defense, 18 May 2012.

[14] Letter from Sonia Matilde Eljach Polo, Ministry of External Relations, 19 April 2012.

[15] Carlos Osorio, “Colombia destruye sus últimas bombas de tipo racimo” (“Colombia destroys its last cluster bombs”), Agence France-Presse, 7 May 2009. In 2010, the Ministry of National Defense said that the Colombian air force last used cluster munitions on 10 October 2006 “to destroy clandestine airstrips belonging to organizations dedicated to drug trafficking in remote areas of the country where the risk to civilians was minimal.” Ministry of National Defense presentation on cluster munitions, Slide 11, Bogotá, December 2010.

[16] The case was described in the draft ratification bill contained in the letter from Representative Iván Cepeda Castro to Albeiro Vanegas Osorio, Chairperson, Second Committee of Foreign Affairs, Foreign Trade, Defense and National Security, House of Representatives, April 2011. See also, T. Christian Miller, “A Colombian Town Caught in a Cross-Fire,” Los Angeles Times, 17 March 2002.

[17] Organization of American States Inter-American Commission on Human Rights document, “Masacre de Santo Domingo, Colombia, Caso 12.416,” 22 April 2011.

[18] Sentence C-259 of 2012, Section B2 “The launch of a ANM1A2 device on Santo Domingo,” Inter-American Human Rights Court, “Caso Masacre de Santo Domingo vs. Colombia,” Resumen Oficial Emitido por la Court Interamericana Sentencia de 30 Noviembre de 2012.

[19] For details on Colombia’s stockpile destruction see ICBL, Cluster Munition Monitor 2010 (Ottawa: Mines Action Canada, October 2010), pp. 135–136.

[20] Letter from Sonia Matilde Eljach Polo, Ministry of External Relations, 19 April 2012; and response to Monitor questionnaire by the Ministry of External Relations, 26 March 2010. The CB-250K bombs were produced by Chile and each contains 240 submunitions. The ARC-32 bomb is apparently a 350kg weapon containing 32 anti-runway submunitions produced by Israel.

[21] Statement of Colombia, Convention on Cluster Munitions Fourth Meeting of States Parties, San Jose, 2 September 2014.