Cluster munitions are forbidden since 2008 by a treaty signed by 116 countries because they are inhuman by nature. This kind of ammunition contains dozens of explosives that spread twenty or thirty meters around the point of impact and, still worst, some fragments don’t explode and become de facto anti personal mines. This treaty has not been signed by the United States and Saudi Arab.
A video with no audio uploaded to YouTube on April 17 by the pro-Houthi September 21 YouTube channel shows numerous objects with parachutes slowly descending from the sky. The video zooms out to show a mid-air detonation and several black smoke clouds from other detonations. Human Rights Watch established the location, using satellite imagery analysis, as al-Shaaf in Saqeen, in the western part of Saada governorate.
An activist based in the Yemeni capital, Sanaa, provided Human Rights Watch with photographs he received from a resident of Saada governorate, who said he took them on April 17 at the site of an airstrike in the al-Amar area of al-Safraa, 30 kilometers south of the city of Saada. From the photographs, Human Rights Watch identified the remnants of two CBU-105 Sensor Fuzed Weapons manufactured by the Textron Systems Corporation and supplied to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates by the US in recent years. One photograph shows an empty BLU-108 delivery canister, while the other shows a BLU-108 canister with four submunitions still attached to it. The location of the remnants in the photographs is 36 kilometers from where the video was filmed, indicating the possibility of multiple attacks.
Two local residents of al-Safraa told Human Rights Watch that about 5,000 people normally live in the village. They said they witnessed airstrikes in the area on April 27 in which bombs were delivered by parachute. Human Rights Watch was unable to determine whether they saw another attack using CBU-105 Sensor Fuzed Weapons or one using other types of bombs.
Human Rights Watch has not been able to obtain information on possible casualties from the attacks.
Since March 26, a Saudi-led coalition including Bahrain, Egypt, Jordan, Kuwait, Morocco, Qatar, Sudan, and the UAE has conducted numerous airstrikes throughout Yemen against Houthi forces, also known as Ansar Allah, who effectively ousted the government of President Abdu Rabu Mansour Hadi in January. None of these countries have signed the 2008 Convention on Cluster Munitions.
Soon after the airstrikes began, Saudi Arabia denied using cluster munitions in Yemen. At a news conference in Riyadh on March 29, Brig. Gen. al-Assiri told the media, “We are not using cluster bombs at all.”
According to a data sheet issued by the Textron Systems Corporation, the CBU-105 disperses 10 BLU-108 canisters that each subsequently release four submunitions that sense, classify, and engage a target such as an armored vehicle, and are equipped with self-destruct and self-deactivation features. The submunitions of the Sensor Fuzed Weapon explode above the ground and project an explosively formed jet of metal and fragmentation downward.
While the CBU-105 is banned under the Convention on Cluster Munitions, its use is permitted under existing US policy and its export is permitted under existing US export restrictions on cluster munitions.
In August 2013, the US Department of Defense concluded a contract for the manufacture of 1,300 CBU-105 Sensor Fuzed Weapons for Saudi Arabia by Textron. The contract stipulated that delivery of the weapons should be completed by December 2015. Human Rights Watch does not know when deliveries began, or if they have finished.
Additionally, the UAE received an unknown number of CBU-105 from Textron Defense Systems in June 2010, fulfilling a contract announced in November 2007.