Amnesty finds UK, US and Brazilian cluster munitions in Yemen

EPA/YAHYA ARHAB

Yemeni mourners carry the coffins of members of a five-member family killed in a Saudi-led airstrike, during the funeral in Sana'a, Yemen, 16 February 2016. In February, Human Rights Watch has also slammed the Saudi-led coalition over using cluster bombs against civilians in Yemen.

Amnesty International’s most recent mission confirmed, for the first time, that the Arab Coalition, led by Saudi Arabia,  have used UK-manufactured BL-755 cluster munitions in Yemen


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The Arab Coalition, led by Saudi Arabia, is using British made cluster bombs in the ongoing war in Yemen, according to a report by Amnesty International. Brazilian and US cluster munitions were also detected.

In 2010, the Convention on Cluster Munitions (CCM) came into force and the international treaty prohibits all use, production, transfer and stockpiling of cluster munitions. According to CCM, cluster bombs must not be used in wars as they have wide area effects and are unable to distinguish between civilians and combatants. Unfortunately, the international treaty is not signed either by Saudi Arabia or Yemen, but it is signed by the British government.

Amnesty reported that a mission sent to a Yemeni village, which was targeted by the Arab Coalition air forces, found an unexploded BL-755 cluster bomb which is designed to be dropped from the UK-made Tornado aircraft used by the Saudi Air Force. The BL-755 was manufactured by Hunting Engineering Ltd in the 1970s and the cluster bomb found, contains 147 sub munitions designed to penetrate 250mm of armour while at the same time breaking into more than 2,000 fragments which act as an anti-personnel weapon.

The mission also found, a Brazilian-manufactured Avibras ASTROS cluster munition rocket motor and US-manufactured CBU-105 Sensor-Fuzed Weapons with BLU-108/B canisters.

The BLU-108, is an air-delivered sub munition, with four further smart “Skeet” sub munitions. The BLU-108 is released from the bomb that carries it, and a parachute deploys to slow its descent. It then fires the four rapidly-rotating skeets, which using multi-mode optical sensors can identify a variety of targets. When the skeet identifies a target signature it detonates, propelling an explosively formed penetrator to penetrate armour and produce incendiary effects, as well as a fragmentation ring to damage soft targets and personnel.

After the findings, Amnesty stressed that the international community must help in clearing the Yemeni territories contaminated with cluster bombs and major countries, such as the US and the UK should press the Saudi Arabia-led coalition forces to stop using cluster munitions.

According to Amnesty, 16 new civilian casualties, including nine children, were documented in the aftermath of Saudi Arabia-led coalition’s cluster bomb use.

“Even after hostilities have died down (due to a ceasefire agreement between the fighting sides) the lives and livelihoods of civilians, including young children, continue to be on the line in Yemen as they return to de facto minefields. They cannot live in safety until contaminated areas in and around their homes and fields are identified and cleared of deadly cluster bomb sub munitions and other unexploded ordnance,” said Lama Fakih, Senior Crisis Advisor at Amnesty International.

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