American Cluster Bombs Are Being Used To Kill And Maim Civilians In Yemen

CREDIT: AP Photo/Hani Mohammed

People search for survivors under the rubble of houses destroyed by Saudi airstrikes in the old city of Sanaa, Yemen, Friday, June 12, 2015.

Saudi Arabia is using American made cluster bombs in Yemen, according to reports by Human Rights Watch, in attacks that are indiscriminately killing and maiming civilians.

Cluster munitions emit a large detonation before a number of smaller bombs are distributed over a wider area. While the sale of cluster munitions is not banned internationally, it is widely condemned. “The United States is one of 80 countries, including China, Israel, Iran, North Korea, Russia and Saudi Arabia, that have rejected a ban on the sale or use of cluster munitions,” CNN reported Monday.

The use of cluster munitions in places with high-population density, though, is in violation of U.S export laws. It is also a potential war crime, according to the staff at HRW.

“The coalition’s repeated use of cluster bombs in the middle of a crowded city suggests an intent to harm civilians, which is a war crime,” said Steve Goose, arms director at Human Rights Watch. “These outrageous attacks show that the coalition seems less concerned than ever about sparing civilians from war’s horrors.”

The European Union passed a measure to block member states from selling arms to Saudi Arabia last week, citing the kingdom’s destruction and disregard for the humanitarian crisis in Yemen. The United States has been repeatedly criticized by humans rights groups for massive arms deals involving the Saudi kingdom. Senators from both sides of the aisle have called for reviewing relations with the Saudis in recent months.

While these calls have picked up steam as of late, the arms deals are only set to expand, according to a Congress Research Service Report on Saudi-U.S. relations.

“Since late 2012, the Obama Administration has notified Congress of proposed Foreign Military Sales to Saudi Arabia with a potential value of more than $42 billion, including a proposed sale of Multi-Mission Surface Combatant Ships potentially worth more than $11.25 billion,” wrote Christopher M. Blanchard, the report’s author.

American officials, meanwhile, acknowledged the report but made no mention of potential actions it would take to prevent Saudi Arabia’s continued bombardment of residential zones in Yemen.

“We are aware of the Human Rights Watch report and are reviewing it,” Christopher Sherwood, a spokesman for the Department of Defense, told CNN. “We have consistently reinforced to coalition members the imperative of target analysis and precise application of weapons in order to identify and avoid structures and areas that, if struck, could result in civilian casualties.”