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16 Feb, 2016 14:30

Civilian casualties in Yemen as Saudi-led coalition uses US-made cluster bombs – HRW official to RT

Civilian casualties in Yemen as Saudi-led coalition uses US-made cluster bombs – HRW official to RT

Human Rights Watch (HRW) has investigated the use of cluster munitions in five attacks by the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen, a representative told RT. The munitions, made by a US company and banned in populated areas, injured at least five civilians.

Just two days after the organization released a report on the topic, Mary Wareham, advocacy director of the Arms Division of HRW, spoke to RT about the findings.

“At Humans Right Watch, we have been documenting the use of cluster munitions in the conflict in Yemen since March of last year. Yesterday we issued our fifth, I think, report on the use of cluster bombs there. It was looking at a particular type of high-tech version of cluster munition manufactured in the United States and transferred to Saudi Arabia, and to the United Arab Emirates in recent years. So we wanted to see how this particular cluster munition is being used in Yemen by the Saudi-led coalition, because it is really the only type that the US is allowed to export or use anymore. What we found was at least five separate attacks in four different governorates of this particular type of air delivered cluster munition, and at least five civilian victims from the time of attack, including a woman and three-year-old child, who were hurt in their home, and the mother was hurt so badly that her leg was amputated after the attack.”

'Use in populated areas'

“So these cluster munitions were provided to those countries on the understanding or the requirement that they would not be used in civilian areas. And we saw use at least in a couple of populated areas: the fishing village next to a port that was attacked in December is the most recent attack, but we also saw them used just outside a village in April and our researchers were at the scene collecting munitions that they found on the ground at that time.

So it's very clear to us that these cluster munitions are being used right now. They are causing civilian casualties, and we question whether or not this high-tech version that's supposed to not fail – at least 99 percent of the time – if it's failing, because we've also seen numerous instances of these remnants of the cluster munitions lying on the ground with their sub-munitions still attached.”

'Produced by Pentagon contractor'

“Every munition used is marked, and these are marked with the name of the manufacturer, which is Textron Systems Corporation, a US-based company that fulfills contracts for the Pentagon. It has been fulfilling a contract to manufacture and deliver this particular type of cluster munition to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates with the understanding from the United States that they [are] not used in populated areas. When we first saw evidence of this use it was over social media, from Twitter, and in April there was also videos uploaded to YouTube by locals in Yemen, in the northern province of Saada. We managed to geolocate the site of one of those attacks and also look at the remnants of the weapons and determine that they are the CBU-105 Sensor Fuzed Weapon, which has got quite distinctive munitions it delivers.”

'Schools, mosques, hospitals attacked'

“We've recorded about 18 different cluster munition attacks over those five governorates since March 2015, and many more attacks involving the use of explosive weapons. When they're dropped on towns and cities and villages, we see civilian harm from that. Everything has been attacked; schools have been attacked, mosques and places of worship have been attacked, hospitals have been attacked. But frankly, the same thing is happening in Syria right now, with the use of cluster munitions there. And we've recorded hundreds of instances of the use of cluster bombs in Syria for the past five years, so Yemen is not alone in what it is experiencing, but we find it unacceptable that it should be subject to the use of a banned weapon such as cluster munitions.”

'Coalition urged to investigate its own alleged war crimes'

“The United States, the United Kingdom, and the other countries that are supporting the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen keep telling the coalition to investigate itself and to investigate the war crimes that are reported to have been carried out by the coalition. We have yet to see any serious report undertaken by the coalition and made public, and we really don't know what the United States and the United Kingdom are doing in terms of the advice that they're providing; there's just not a lot of transparency there. But we would hope, especially for the United Kingdom, that it is not advising the Saudi coalition to use cluster munitions because the United Kingdom has signed up to the 2008 treaty banning these weapons. So that's the situation.

We investigate cluster munition use every day at Human Rights Watch, and we only will go out and provide that evidence if we believe it to be watertight and for it to be happening right now, so we've delivered multiple reports about this, as has Amnesty International, as has the United Nations. And we know that countries are concerned about this. There are 118 countries that have banned cluster munitions, and they're pressing for the weapons not to be used in Yemen or in Syria, or in any other country for that matter; the use of these weapons is unacceptable to them under any circumstances. And that's why we get so upset when we see these cluster munitions being used, any type of cluster munition being used. They cause problems at the time of the attack when they fall over a very wide area, and if you're a civilian caught up in that you can die or lose your limbs. But then we also see an awful lot of unexploded ordnance, or remnants, the sub-munitions that are contained in the cluster munitions, and we see a number that fail to detonate, fail to explode as they're supposed to. We see this in Syria, we see this in Yemen, we see this in Libya and South Sudan and elsewhere, and it's really the civilians on the ground who are left picking up the pieces and picking up the unexploded sub-munitions and harming themselves in the course of doing that. It's been 40 years since cluster munitions were used by the United States and other countries in Southeast Asia – and Laos, Cambodia, and Vietnam are still cleaning up...from that conflict. So just imagine what it's going to take to clean up the unexploded ordnance that's resulting from all of the use of these explosive weapons in Yemen, in Syria, and elsewhere. It's unacceptable and it has to stop now.”