31 May 2015
Cluster Bombs Wound Civilians in Yemen
Saudi-led coalition urged to stop using cluster bombs
The remnants of two expended BLU-108 canisters from a CBU-105 Sensor Fuzed Weapon found in the al-Amar area of al-Safraa, Saada governorate, in northern Yemen, after an attack on April 27, 2015. © 2015 Ole Solvang/Human Rights Watch
Geneva, 31 May 2015 -- Despite indicating that "We are not using cluster bombs at all", the coalition led by Saudi Arabia is using cluster bombs in Yemen. Human Rights Watch has started to document civilian victims, including a child. The Cluster Munition Coalition calls on all parties to the conflict to make an official public commitment never to use cluster bombs.
Cluster bombs are indiscriminate weapons that are imprecise at the time of use and leave behind submunitions that remain a threat for anyone in the area long after use. While none of the states that comprise the Saudi Arabia-led coalition are parties to the 2008 Convention on Cluster Munitions, they must all respect the principles of distinction and proportionality established by International Humanitarian Law.
"The Cluster Munition Coalition condemns the use of cluster munitions in Yemen and calls on all parties to ensure no future use," said Megan Burke, Director of the Cluster Munition Coalition.
In two incidents documented by Human Rights Watch (27 April, 23 May), cluster bombs were air-dropped, which clearly points responsibility to the Saudi-led coalition, since it is the only party using aircraft. In another incident (29 April), cluster bombs were fired from the ground. While both sides could have been capable of firing the type of submunition employed, the incident took place in an area that had been under attack by the Saudi-led coalition, and within range of Saudi artillery, pointing again responsibility to the coalition*. Information has also been received that suggests other possible instances of use of cluster bombs.
A number of civilians were wounded in the attacks or when submunitions exploded after use. In one particular incident, four civilians were wounded, including a ten-year-old boy, when "bombs that looked like toys" exploded when picked up from the ground.
Human Rights Watch further noted that the types of cluster bombs used recently in Yemen include BLU-97, supplied by the United States in the early 1990s.
The Saudi Arabia-led coalition comprises Bahrain, Egypt, Jordan, Kuwait, Morocco, Qatar, Sudan and the United Arab Emirates. The United States provides logistics and intelligence support.
Cluster bombs were also used in Yemen by the Saudi-led coalition earlier in April 2015. There is credible evidence that Saudi Arabia had previously used cluster bombs in air strikes on Yemen's northern Sada'a governorate, in November 2009.
* The Houthis could have fired a weapon that malfunctioned and landed in their own territory, preventing Human Rights Watch from conclusively establishing responsibility for the attack.
Use of cluster bombs in Yemen in April 2015, Media Articles (New York Times, Financial Times, Ria Novosti, etc.)
Yemen bombarded with cluster munitions, CMC Web Article, 4 May 2015
Saudi Arabia and others must not use cluster munitions in Yemen, CMC Web Article, 27 March 2015