This morning, at 2 am, while most of us were sleeping, Bonnie Docherty testified before an Australian Senate committee—from her living room in Cambridge.  Via telephone, she told the committee that Australia’s proposed legislation on implementing the Convention on Cluster Munitions falls far short of the Convention’s goal and the standards set by other countries.

The Convention absolutely bans cluster munitions and requires countries to provide assistance for victims of past use. More than 100 countries—including Australia—have signed on; 52 have ratified.  Before Australia can ratify, it must pass legislation detailing how it will implement the Convention.

Students work at a desk at the United Nations.
Mona Williams (left) and Maria van Wagenberg, both J.D. ’11, pictured here at the First Meeting of States Parties to the Convention on Cluster Munitions in Laos in November 2010.

In January, Bonnie and two of her students (Maria van Wagenberg, JD ’11, and Mona Williams, JD ’11) wrote a critique of the government’s proposed legislation, which allows for broad exceptions to the Convention’s ban in the event of joint military operations with countries not party to the Convention, such as the United States.  The paper was jointly submitted to the committee by the Clinic and Human Rights Watch.

And that’s why Bonnie was called to testify.  Here’s what she had to say about the Senate hearing:

“The senators asked good questions and seemed receptive.  I’m glad we—meaning civil society—were able to present a united front on all the issues we wanted to raise, including on joint operations.  But I’m aware it will be a challenge to persuade the parliament to adopt the changes we want—in part because Australia feels great pressure from the U.S., which has not yet joined the Convention.”