Cluster munitions wounding civilians in Yemen
Feb 15, Beirut: The Saudi Arabia-led coalition is using internationally banned cluster munitions supplied by the United States in Yemen despite evidence of civilian casualties, Human Rights Watch said.
Recently transferred US-manufactured cluster munitions are being used in civilian areas contrary to US export requirements and also appear to be failing to meet the reliability standard required for US export of the weapons.
Since March 26, 2015, a Saudi-led coalition of nations has been conducting a military operation in Yemen against Houthi forces, also known as Ansar Allah. Field research by Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, and the United Nations; interviews with witnesses and victims; and photographs and video evidence confirm that the Saudi-led coalition is using cluster munitions in Yemen.
Cluster munitions are delivered from the ground by artillery and rockets, or dropped from aircraft and contain multiple smaller submunitions that spread out over a wide area. A total of 118 countries have banned cluster munitions due to the threat they pose to nearby civilians at the time of attack and afterward. The submunitions often fail to explode and pose a threat until cleared and destroyed. Yemen, the US, and Saudi Arabia and its coalition members should join the 2008 Convention on Cluster Munitions, Human Rights Watch said.
HRW said that the Saudi Arabia-led coalition of states operating in Yemen is responsible for all or nearly all of these cluster munition attacks because it is the only entity operating aircraft or multibarrel rocket launchers capable of delivering five of the six types of cluster munitions that have been used in the conflict.
Most recently, CBU-105 Sensor Fuzed Weapons were used in a December 12, 2015 attack on the Yemeni port town of Hodaida, injuring a woman and two children in their homes. At least two civilians were wounded when CBU-105 Sensor Fuzed Weapons were used near al-Amar village in Saada governorate on April 27, 2015, according to local residents and medical staff. More information on these and other cluster munition attacks is provided below.
While any use of any type of cluster munition should be condemned, there are two additional disturbing aspects to the use of CBU-105 Sensor Fuzed Weapons in Yemen. First, US export law prohibits recipients of cluster munitions from using them in populated areas, as the Saudi coalition has clearly been doing. Second, US export law only allows the transfer of cluster munitions with a failure rate of less than 1 percent. But it appears that Sensor Fuzed Weapons used in Yemen are not functioning in ways that meet that reliability standard.
HRW chairs the Cluster Munition Coalition U.S., which in a March 30, 2015 letter urged President Barack Obama to review the 2008 cluster munitions policy, and to remove the exception allowing cluster munitions that result in less than 1 percent unexploded ordnance rate.
According to a Textron Systems Corporation datasheet, the CBU-105 disperses 10 BLU-108 canisters that each release four submunitions the manufacturer calls “skeet” that are designed to sense, classify, and engage a target such as an armored vehicle. The submunitions explode above the ground and project an explosively formed jet of metal and fragmentation downward. The skeet are equipped with electronic self-destruct and self-deactivation features.
However, photographs taken by HRW field investigators at one location and photographs received from another location show BLU-108 from separate attacks with their “skeets” or submunitions still attached. This shows a failure to function as intended as the submunitions failed to disperse from the canister, or were dispersed but did not explode.
The Oslo Times/HRW