UK fails to condemn use of cluster bombs in Yemen

New report says UK seeking to weaken global condemnation of cluster bombs

(London, 3 September 2015) Ahead of a major international conference on cluster bombs in Dubrovnik next week, the UK is refusing to condemn the use of cluster bombs in Yemen and seeking to water down international condemnation of any use of the banned weapons.

The annual 2015 Cluster Munition Monitor, released today, critiques the UK’s failure to condemn use of cluster munitions by the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen and its efforts to weaken the draft outcome documents of the First Review Conference of the Convention on Cluster Munitions, to be held in Dubrovnik from 7-11 September. The Monitor outlines the UK’s condemnation of cluster munition use elsewhere.

The UK should condemn the use of cluster munitions in Yemen, just as it has condemned their use in Sudan, Syria and Ukraine this year,” said Thomas Nash, Director of the UK-based weapons monitoring organisation Article 36. “UK efforts to water down international condemnation of cluster bombs show a callous disregard for the human suffering caused by these weapons.”

As a party to the 2008 Convention on Cluster Munitions, which bans the weapons outright, the UK has destroyed its own stockpile of millions of cluster munitions, has called on all states to join the treaty and has condemned recent use of the banned weapons in Libya, Sudan, Syria and Ukraine. However, despite evidence from Human Rights Watch that the weapons have been used by the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen, killing and injuring civilians, the UK has refused to acknowledge or condemn this use. A U.S. official was quoted on 19 August as saying that “the U.S. is aware that Saudi Arabia has used cluster munitions in Yemen.”

On 21 July, FCO Minister Tobias Ellwood did not address this topic in an answer to a parliamentary question by Jeremy Corbyn, saying his speech had been “ruined” by notes he “scribbled” during the debate. There has been no public response since.

Prior to signing the Convention in Oslo in 2008, the UK used cluster munitions extensively during the Falklands War, in Kosovo and in Iraq during 1991 and 2003. The UK sold cluster munitions to Saudi Arabia prior to 2008, but it is not clear whether these transfers included the types of cluster munitions used in Yemen.


  • From 7-11 September states parties will meet in Dubrovnik for the First (five-yearly) Review Conference of the Convention on Cluster Munitions to review progress in implementation of the treaty and set a course for the next five years.
  • The outcome of the meeting will be a detailed ‘Dubrovnik Action Plan’ and a shorter political ‘Dubrovnik Declaration’.
  • UK, Australia and Canada are actively opposing draft language to “condemn any use of cluster munitions, by any actor” in the ‘Dubrovnik Declaration’.
  • Human Rights Watch has documented the use of US-manufactured cluster munitions in northern Yemen by the Saudi-led coalition and has reported US pressure not to condemn such use.
  • Sensor-fused CBU-105 air-dropped cluster munitions with BLU-108 submunitions as well as air-dropped cluster bombs with BLU-97 submunitions and M26 rocket-delivered cluster munitions with M77 submunitions have been used since April.
  • The government has yet to answer a 21 July question from Jeremy Corbyn on the UK response to cluster munition use in Yemen.


Thomas Nash, Director, Article 36: +44 (0) 7711 926 730 or

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