The Saudi-led bombing campaign against rebels in Yemen is using U.S.-supplied cluster munitions, endangering civilians and violating an international arms treaty, Human Rights Watch warned on Sunday.
According to the group, there is "credible evidence" that cluster bombs have been used in recent weeks as part of coalition airstrikes in Yemen’s northern Saada governorate, a Houthi stronghold that borders Saudi Arabia. Through analysis of satellite imagery, Human Rights Watch charges that the weapons landed on a "cultivated plateau, within 600 meters of several dozen buildings in four to six village clusters."
Cluster bombs, which are composed of hundreds of submunitions, pose a long-term threat to civilians because they are designed to explode after spreading over a wide area. Often, the submunitions do not explode, causing the bombs to become de facto landmines.
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Over one hundred countries signed the 2008 Convention on Cluster Munitions banning their use. However, the United States, Saudi Arabia, and Yemen all abstained from signing on.
According to a U.S. Defense Department contract, Saudi Arabia purchased 1,300 CBU-105 Sensor Fuzed cluster munitions from Textron Defense Systems, which is based in Wilmington, Mass. The shipment was meant to be completed by December 2015. Additionally, the UAE received an unknown number of CBU-105 from Textron Defense Systems in June 2010, HRW reports.
"Saudi-led cluster munition airstrikes have been hitting areas near villages, putting local people in danger," said Steve Goose, arms director at Human Rights Watch. "These weapons should never be used under any circumstances. Saudi Arabia and other coalition members – and the supplier, the US – are flouting the global standard that rejects cluster munitions because of their long-term threat to civilians."