27 March 2015

Saudi Arabia and others must not use cluster munitions in Yemen

Saudi Arabia and all countries involved in the military action in Yemen, must not use cluster munitions

Blu 97 In Saada Yemen Courtesy Executive Committee Office Of Houthi Admin

Unexploded BLU-97 submunitions present in a district of Sa’ada Governorate near the border of Yemen and Saudi Arabia in July 2013. Photo courtesy of the Executive Committee Office of the Houthi Administration.



On 30 March 2015, Arab News reported that a Saudi Arabia Defense Ministry spokesperson, Brig. Gen. Ahmad Al-Assiri, said: "We are not using cluster bombs at all", referring to military operations in Yemen. This was in answer to a question form Arab News, on whether cluster munitions were used during the airstrikes.


Geneva, 27 March 2015 -- The Cluster Munition Coalition (CMC) is urging Saudi Arabia as well as Bahrain, Egypt, Jordan, Kuwait, Morocco, Pakistan, Qatar, Sudan and United Arab Emirates to refrain from using any cluster munitions in the “Operation Decisive Storm” military action in Yemen, which began on 25 March.

The CMC calls on the 116 nations that are part of the Convention on Cluster Munitions to take immediate action in accordance with the Article 21 (2) of the Convention, to prevent any use of cluster munitions in Yemen or elsewhere.

 “We urge Saudi Arabia and all countries involved in the airstrikes in Yemen to not use any cluster munitions,” Megan Burke, Director of Cluster Munition Coalition (CMC) said. “These weapons have been banned because they are indiscriminate and unreliable, causing major humanitarian problems and risks to civilians.”

Neither Yemen nor any of countries participating in “Operation Decisive Storm” have joined the Convention on Cluster Munitions, but they have voted for recent UN General Assembly resolutions expressing concern at the use of cluster munitions in Syria in 2013.

There is credible evidence that Saudi Arabia used cluster bombs in air strikes on Yemen’s northern Sada’a governorate in November 2009 when the Saudi Air Force conducted airstrikes and Saudi armed forces intervened on the ground. Cluster munition remnants from the 2009 airstrikes, including unexploded submunitions, have been recorded by a number of sources. In July 2013, Yemeni deminers photographed unexploded U.S.-made BLU-97 and BLU-61 submunitions.  In May 2014, VICE News published research including photos and video shot near the city of Sada’a, the capital of Sada’a governorate, showing numerous remnants of U.S.-made CBU-52 cluster bombs.

"After humanitarian catastrophe by cluster munitions in Syria recently, Lebanon and Iraq in the near past, Yemen and the Middle East as whole cannot bear the use of cluster munitions again," said Ayman Sorour, director of Protection, a CMC member. "Following human tragedy, cluster munitions have been banned, thus they should not be used by any country in military operation in Yemen or anywhere else." He added.

Yemen is believed to stockpile only cluster munitions of Soviet origin. U.S. export records show that Saudi Arabia has received significant exports of U.S. cluster bombs. Unless modified, Yemen’s Soviet supplied aircraft are not capable of delivering US-made cluster bombs and the Houthi rebels do not operate aircraft capable of using cluster munitions. All The other countries participating in “Operation Decisive Storm” are believed to stockpile cluster munitions except Morocco.

The CMC has conveyed its concerns and messages through letters to Saudi Arabia and all states that are involved in the military action in Yemen.

To date 116 states have joined the Convention on Cluster Munitions, of which 91 are States Parties. The last three countries to join the Convention are Palestine, Paraguay and Canada.