‘Saudis condemned cluster bombs in Syria but used banned munitions in Yemen?’

Reuters/John Vizcaino
The stigma against the use of cluster munitions is so great that countries that haven’t joined the treaty banning them often deny using such bombs, recognizing the political consequences, says Megan Burke, campaigner against mines and cluster munitions.

The Saudi-led coalition has used banned weapons in Yemen, according to Human Rights Watch. That organization says cluster bombs were dropped near residential areas and caused widespread damage. The use of such bombs was prohibited by most of the international community in 2008. According to Stephen Goose, executive director of the arms division at Human Rights Watch, the US apparently sold the weapons to Saudi Arabia. Saudi Arabia, Yemen and the US did not join 116 other countries in signing the treaty.

RT:Saudi Arabia has repeatedly denied using the weapons in Yemen. But what could Riyadh possibly be afraid of, considering it isn't bound by theConvention on Cluster Munitions?

READ MORE: S. Arabia bombs Yemen with US-supplied cluster bombs – HRW

Megan Burke: In fact, the stigma against the use of cluster munitions is so great that even the countries that have not yet joined the Convention on Cluster Munitions often deny using them or indicate that they will not use them because they recognize the political cost for them if they do use them. For example, the use in Syria led to a UN General Assembly resolution condemning Syria for that use and expressing outrage. In fact, Saudi Arabia, the US, and Yemen voted it in favor of that UN General Assembly resolution.

RT:Are you surprised they haven’t had a similar reaction now?

MB: We’ve just come out with the information, Human Rights Watch released the report, and this is the very first evidence of use that we’ve had. Saudi Arabia previously, just about a month ago, said that they would be not using cluster munitions. It is too early to say. I think very soon many states - parties to the convention and even the countries that have not joined the convention - will be speaking out about this use.

RT:Doesn’t it put the US in a difficult position because it actually provided these weapons?

MB: Yes, indeed. Very recently the US coalition which is the part of the Cluster Munitions Coalition that I represent contacted the US, wrote to President Obama, calling for a revision of US policy that would have outlawed the sale of these weapons to Saudi Arabia, the exact weapons that were used.

Reuters/Mike Segar

RT:What was the reaction?

MB: There hasn’t been too much of the reaction yet, but that was very recently. The US coalition is working with US government to try to get a statement and try to get some movement towards that. While the US has not yet joined the convention, they have taken steps that have brought them fairly close... The transfer of these weapons to Saudi Arabia was through a loophole in the existing US policy that brings it very close in line. Clearly this is something the US government will have to look at very closely because the intention behind the US law is to be quite in line with the convention. So this will require some attention.

RT:A hundred and sixteen countries have signed up not to use these weapons and in effect banned their use. Do you expect a collective response from those countries now? Is that what you’d like to see?

MB: Indeed. That is exactly what we would like to see… We have been getting the word out on social media, and we will be writing to Saudi Arabia itself to express the outrage. We will also be making sure that all the states, parties of the convention, are aware of this use. There is a committee for compliance that monitors use and makes sure that states, parties that are the part of the treaty, can act together to condemn use and to make sure that there is a political cost to use. This has happened in the past. As I said, the use in Syria was condemned by more than a 100 countries, more than the number of countries that are part of the treaty itself. We do have a precedent set for when there is use - it is condemned and condemned quite strongly. We will certainly be working to make sure that happens in this case, as well. There is an upcoming meeting of states, parties of this convention that will be happening in Geneva in June. And certainly this use will be a topic of conversation at that meeting.


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