HRW calls on US to end production of cluster bombs used by Saudis on Yemenis

© Anees Mahyoub
A number of US-made largely banned cluster munitions have been used by Saudi Arabia in Yemen “in or near” civilian areas, Human Rights Watch (HRW) said, while calling for an end to be put to the production and transfer of the weapon due to casualties.

The munitions, which can be both dropped from the air or launched by ground artillery, pose not only an immediate threat to civilians, but are also “de facto landmines” when parts of them remain unexploded, HRW said in its latest report on the matter published on Friday.

Noting that the US can only export cluster bombs that “after arming do not result in more than one percent unexploded ordnance,” the organization questioned “the claimed reliability rate of better than 99 percent,” alleging that the munitions used in Yemen “leave explosive remnants” as their multiple smaller submunitions fail to explode upon impact.

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

HRW claimed the weapons have been deployed “in or near civilian areas in Yemen” in another “apparent violation of US export law,” which prohibits recipients of the US-made cluster munitions to use them in populated areas. The NGO is also a founding member of the international Cluster Munition Coalition (CMC), which works to eradicate the weapons. Cluster munitions are banned in 119 countries, but the US, Saudi Arabia, and Yemen are not party to the prohibiting treaty, HRW said.

While most countries have rejected the weapon “due to the harm they cause civilians,” the US has sold the munitions to Saudi Arabia, HRW arms director and CMC chair Steve Goose said, adding that Washington “should stop producing and exporting them.”

Refuting claims made by one American cluster munitions manufacturer, Textron, which said that the bombs are “intelligent” and “are not intended to target human beings at all,” but designed to destroy armored vehicles, HRW said that none of its documented attacks in Yemen “have involved armored vehicles.”

Nor have any damaged or destroyed armored vehicles been documented at the strike locations” in the Middle Eastern country, the report said.

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HRW “documented civilian casualties in Yemen from the Saudi Arabia-led coalition’s use of four types of US-made air-dropped and ground-launched cluster munitions” in 2015, according to the report, which noted that a woman and children had been among the victims. Saudi Arabia continued to use cluster bombs this year in its military op in neighboring Yemen, HRW claimed, citing a February attack near a cement factory in the Amran governorate.

Earlier this year, HRW had already condemned the use of US-made cluster munitions by Saudis in Yemen, while calling on the international community to investigate cluster bomb attacks on residential neighborhoods in Yemen’s capital of Sanaa. HRW went as far as to accuse the Saudi-led coalition of committing war crimes.

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The coalition began its bombing campaign two years ago, backing the Sunni Muslim government that had been toppled by the Shia Houthi forces. More than 8,000 people have become casualties of the conflict, nearly 3,000 of them fatal, according to UN.