Cluster Munition Ban Policy

Last updated: 02 August 2018

Summary: Non-signatory Yemen supports a ban on cluster munitions, but has not taken any steps to accede to the convention. Yemen has participated in the convention’s meetings, most recently in September 2016, and voted in favor of a key United Nations (UN) resolution promoting the convention in December 2017.

Yemen is not known to have produced or exported cluster munitions, but apparently used cluster munitions in 2009 and may still have a stockpile. Since 26 March 2015, a Saudi Arabia-led coalition has conducted military operations in Yemen against Ansar Allah, whose military wing is also known as the Houthi armed group,that has included the use of seven types of air- and ground-delivered cluster munitions supplied by three countries. There have been fewer reports and allegations of new use of cluster munitions in Yemen since February 2017, but additional attacks could have gone unrecorded.


The Republic of Yemen has not acceded to the Convention on Cluster Munitions.

Yemen has expressed support for banning cluster munitions, but it has not taken any steps to accede to the convention. Previously, in May 2016, a representative of Yemen said the government was considering accession following new contamination from cluster munitions used by a Saudi-led coalition since March 2015.[1]

Yemen participated in two meetings of the Oslo Process that produced the convention (Lima in May 2007 and Belgrade in October 2007) and expressed its support for work to prohibit cluster munitions.[2] It did not attend the negotiations of the convention in Dublin in May 2008 or the Convention on Cluster Munitions Signing Conference in Oslo in December 2008.[3]

Yemen participated as an observer in the convention’s annual Meetings of States Parties in 2011, 2013, 2014, and 2016. It was invited to, but did not attend the Seventh Meeting of States Parties in Geneva in September 2017.

In December 2017, Yemen voted in favor of a UN General Assembly (UNGA) resolution that calls on states outside the Convention on Cluster Munitions to “join as soon as possible.”[4] It abstained from voting on previous UNGA resolutions promoting the convention in 2015 and 2016.

Yemen has voted in favor of UNGA resolutions expressing outrage at the use of cluster munitions in Syria, most recently in December 2017.[5]

Yemen is a State Party to the Mine Ban Treaty. It is not party to the Convention on Conventional Weapons.

Production, transfer, and stockpiling

Yemen is not known to have produced or exported cluster munitions.

There is evidence that Yemen likely used Soviet or Russian-made RBK-series cluster bombs in 2009.

Yemen may possess cluster munition stocks. Jane’s Information Group reported in 2004 that KMGU dispensers that deploy submunitions are in service with the country’s air force.[6] Moldova exported 13 220mm Uragan multi-barrel rocket launch systems to Yemen in 1994, and Yemen possesses Grad 122mm surface-to-surface rocket launchers, but it is not known if the ammunition for these weapons includes versions with submunition payloads.[7]


On 26 March 2015, a Saudi Arabia-led coalition began a military operation in Yemen against Ansar Allah, whose military wing is also known as the Houthi armed group (Houthi) and their allied forces that was continuing as of 1 July 2018.[8] None of the states participating in the Saudi Arabia-led coalition—Bahrain, Egypt, Jordan, Kuwait, Morocco, Pakistan, Sudan, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), and Yemen—are party to the Convention on Cluster Munitions.

The Saudi-led coalition has used cluster munitions in Yemen since April 2015. Most of the recorded cluster munition attacks were documented in 2015, 2016, and up to February 2017.[9]

A review of official Houthi news reports by a group of independent researchers found evidence of four possible cluster munition attacks in Saada and Taizz governorates in 2017—after February—that the media articles attributed to the Saudi-led coalition.[10] International organizations and media have been unable to access the north of Yemen, where these cluster munition attacks were reported.

Cluster Munition Monitor did not find evidence of new cluster munition use in Yemen in the first half of 2018. A representative from a commercial company assisting the Saudi-led coalition to clear landmines and explosive remnants of war in Yemen told the Monitor in June 2018 that the company was not aware of any new cluster munition use in the first half of 2018.[11]

Cluster munition attacks likely went unrecorded in Yemen in the reporting period as first-hand evidence has become increasingly challenging to collect.

Previous Use: 2015–February 2017

There is evidence of at least 23 cluster munition attacks in the conflict involving the use of seven types of air-delivered and ground-launched cluster munitions manufactured and exported by three countries, as shown in the following table.

Cluster munition attacks in Yemen (April 2015 to February 2017)[12]

Type of cluster munition

Country of origin

Stocks possessed by

Governorate and date of attack


CBU-105 Sensor Fuzed Weapon, each deploying 10 BLU-108 canisters that disperse four submunitions called “skeet” by the manufacturer Textron

United States (US)

Saudi Arabia,


Al-Shaaf in Saada, 17 April 2015

Al-Amar in Saada. 27 April 2015

Harf Sofian in Amran, 29 June 2015

Sanhan in Sanaa, 1 November 2015

Al-Hayma in Hodaida, 12 December 2015

Amran in Sanaa, 15 February 2016

Al-Hayma in Hodaida, 5 October 2016

CBU-87 bomb, each containing 202 BLU-97 submunitions


Saudi Arabia

Al-Nushoor in Saada, 23 May 2015

Al-Maqash in Saada, 23 May 2015

CBU-58 bomb, each containing 650 BLU-63 submunitions


Saudi Arabia,


Sanaa City, 6 January 2016

BL755 cluster bomb, each containing 147 No 2 Mk 1 submunitions


Saudi Arabia

Al-Khadhra in Hajja, 6 January 2016


ASTROS II rocket, each containing up to 65 submunitions


Bahrain, Qatar,

Saudi Arabia

Ahma in Saada, 25 October 2015

Sadaa City, 6 December 2016

Sadaa City, 15 February 2017

Qahza in Saada, 22 February 2017

M26 rocket, each containing 644 M77 Dual Purpose Improved Conventional Munition (DPICM) submunitions





Bani Kaladah in Hajja, April/May 2015

Al-Hazan in Hajja, May/June 2015

Malus in Hajja, 7 June 2015

Dughayj in Hajja, Jue/July 2015

Al-Qufl in Hajja, 14/15 July 2015

Haradh in Hajja, 25 July 2015

Al-Fajj in Hajja, 25 July 2015

“ZP-39” DPICM submunition (unknown delivery system)



Baqim in Saada, 29 April 2015


Between April 2015 and October 2016, the Saudi Arabia-led coalition used CBU-105 Sensor Fuzed Weapons in seven attacks.[13] The UAE has denied using the CBU-105 in Yemen.[14] Saudi Arabia’s spokesperson said the coalition used CBU-105 once, in April 2015, but claimed they are not prohibited weapons.[15] In May 2016, the Obama administration suspended US cluster munition transfers to Saudi Arabia following reports of civilian harm in Yemen.[16] On 30 August 2016, CBU-105 manufacturer Textron Systems announced that it is stopping its production of the weapons, effectively ending US production of cluster munitions, as it was the last producer.[17]

In 2015 and the first half of 2016, the Saudi-led coalition also used BL755 cluster munitions made by the United Kingdom (UK).[18] This marked the first time that UK-made cluster munitions have been used since the Convention on Cluster Munitions, to which the UK is party, took effect in 2010. In December 2016, Saudi Arabia committed to stop using these UK-produced cluster munitions in Yemen.[19] According to the UK, it last transferred BL755 cluster munitions to Saudi Arabia in 1989.[20]

In September 2016, States Parties to the Convention on Cluster Munitions issued a joint declaration stating that they “condemn any use by any actor” and expressing deep concern at “any and all allegations, reports or documented evidence of the use of cluster munitions, most notably in Syria and Yemen in the past year.”[21] On 30 November 2017, the European Parliament adopted a resolution condemning the Saudi-led coalition airstrikes in Yemen, including its use of cluster munitions.[22]

Previous Use: 2009

During 2009, Saudi Arabia, the US, and likely the Yemeni government, used cluster munitions in separate attacks in Yemen:

  • The Saudi air force conducted airstrikes and Saudi armed forces intervened on the ground in late 2009 in Saada governorate after fighting between the government of Yemen and Ansar Allah intensified and spilled over the border with Saudi Arabia.[23] Remnants of CBU-52 cluster bombs were filmed near Saada City.[24]
  • In 2013, the Houthi administration in Saada provided VICE News with photographs showing remnants of Soviet-made RBK-250-275 AO-1SCh cluster bombs and associated antipersonnel fragmentation submunitions.[25] Yemen’s Soviet-supplied aircraft are capable of delivering Soviet-made RBK cluster bombs.

On 17 December 2009, the US used at least five ship- or submarine-launched TLAM-D cruise missiles, each containing 166 BLU-97 submunitions, in an attack on al-Ma‘jalah in Yemen’s southern Abyan governorate that killed 55 people, including 41 civilians.[26] Neither the US nor the Yemeni government has publicly denied the cluster munition use.[27] The government of Yemen accepted a 2010 Yemeni parliament report on the attack, but never implemented the recommendations to clear the contaminated area or provide compensation.[28]

[1] Statement of Yemen, Mine Ban Treaty Intersessional Meetings, Geneva, 19 May 2016. Notes by Human Rights Watch (HRW).

[2] Statement of Yemen, Lima Conference on Cluster Munitions, Session on Victim Assistance, 23 May 2008. Notes by Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom.

[3] For details on Yemen’s cluster munition policy and practice up to early 2009, see HRW and Landmine Action, Banning Cluster Munitions: Government Policy and Practice (Ottawa: Mines Action Canada, May 2009), p. 262.

[4] “Implementation of the Convention on Cluster Munitions,” UNGA Resolution 72/54, 4 December 2017.

[5] “Situation of human rights in the Syrian Arab Republic,” UNGA Resolution 71/203, 19 December 2016. Yemen voted in favor of similar resolutions in 2013–2015.

[6] Robert Hewson, ed., Jane’s Air Launched Weapons, Issue 44 (Surrey, United Kingdom: Jane’s Information Group Limited, 2004), p. 848.

[7] Submission of the Republic of Moldova, UN Register of Conventional Arms, Report for Calendar Year 1994, 28 April 1995;International Institute for Strategic Studies, The Military Balance 2011 (London: Routledge, 2011), p. 335; and Colin King, ed., Jane’s Explosive Ordnance Disposal 2008, CD-edition (Surrey, UK: Jane’s Information Group Limited, 2008).

[8] UN-brokered ceasefires went into effect on 10 April 2016, 19 October 2016, and 19 November 2016.

[9] In February 2017, the Saudi-led coalition fired Brazilian-made ASTROS II cluster munition rockets in Saada governorate on at least three locations, according to investigations by Amnesty International and HRW. HRW, “Yemen: Brazil-Made Cluster Munitions Harm Civilians,” 23 December 2016; Amnesty International, “Yemen: Saudi Arabia-led coalition uses banned Brazilian cluster munitions on residential areas,” 9 March 2017; and HRW, “Yemen: Cluster Munitions Wound Children,” 17 March 2017.

[10] It listed reported cluster munition strikes in 2017 in Taizz on 25 and 26 March 2017 and in Saada on 14 April, 18 July, 20 July, and 22 July. Cluster Munition Monitor victim assistance team review of the Armed Conflict Location and Event Data project (ACLED), “Middle East 2016–2018” (update July 10) data for calendar year 2017. Clionadh Raleigh, Andrew Linke, Håvard Hegre, and Joakim Karlsen, “Introducing ACLED-Armed Conflict Location and Event Data,” Journal of Peace Research, 47(5) 651–660, 2010.

[11] Monitor interview with Chris Clark, Global Director of Operations, Dynasafe Group, Geneva, 7 June 2018.

[12] HRW could not determine who used ground-launched cluster munitions containing “ZP-39” submunitions in Saada in April 2015, but Saudi Arabia and Houthi forces both possess rocket launchers and tube artillery capable of delivering them.

[13] “اليمن : إسقاط طيران العدوان السعودي الامريكي قنابل مظلية محرمة دوليا,”, 17 April 2015; Fatik Al-Rodaini (@Fatikr), “Types of bombs being parchuted [sic] by Saudi warplanes in Saada N #Yemen,” 12:50pm,27 April 2015,Tweet. Another attack was recorded subsequent visit by HRW researchers to al-Amar village, 30 kilometers south of Saada city, confirmed a cluster munition attack on 27 April, including the presence of explosive remnants. HRW, “Yemen: Saudi-led Airstrikes Used Cluster Munitions,” 3 May 2015.

[14] A diplomatic representative of the UAE told the CMC that it is not using CBU-105 Sensor Fuzed Weapons because they are banned by the 2008 Convention on Cluster Munitions. Interview with UAE Ministry of Foreign Affairs Representative, Geneva, 12 April 2016.

[15] Asiri informed CNN on 4 May 2015 that Saudi Arabia had used CBU-105 in Yemen against armored vehicles only, describing it as an “anti-vehicle weapon” and stating, “We do not use it against persons. We don’t have any operation in the cities.” Ben Brumfield and Slma Shelbayah, “Report: Saudi Arabia used U.S.-supplied cluster bombs in Yemen,” CNN, 4 May 2015. Asiri acknowledged to The Financial Times that Saudi forces have used a US weapon that engages targets such as armored vehicles and is “equipped with self-destruct and self-deactivation features” but did not call it a cluster munition and argued it was being used to target vehicles and not people. “Saudi Arabia accused of using cluster bombs in Yemen airstrikes,” The Financial Times, 3 May 2015. Asiri told Bloomberg News that the categorization of the cluster munitions as banned “isn’t correct.” Alaa Shahine, “Saudis deny sending troops to Yemen, reject cluster-bomb report,” Bloomberg News, 3 May 2015. Asiri informed CNN on 11 January 2016 that it has used cluster munitions against concentrated rebel camps and armored vehicles, but never against civilian populations. “Rights group: Saudi Arabia used US cluster bombs on civilians,” CNN, 29 February 2016.

[16] According to the Foreign Policy article, a senior US official said the administration acknowledges reports that the weapons had been used “in areas in which civilians are alleged to have been present or in the vicinity” and added,“We take such concerns seriously and are seeking additional information.” John Hudson, “White House blocks transfer of cluster bombs to Saudi Arabia,” Foreign Policy, 27 May 2016; and HRW, “US: Stop Providing Cluster Munitions,” 2 June 2016. HRW collected evidence showing CBU-105s were used in or near civilian areas in apparent violation of US export law. A woman and two children were injured in their homes by CBU-105 attack on 12 December 2015 on the port town of Hodaida, while at least two civilians were wounded in an attack near al-Amar village in Saada governorate on 27 April 2015. HRW also found at least three instances where CBU-105s malfunctioned as their “skeet” or submunitions did not separate from the BLU-108 canister and did not explode. HRW, “Yemen: Cluster Munitions Harm Civilians,” 31 May 2015; and HRW, “Yemen: Saudis Using US Cluster Munitions,” 6 May 2016.

[17] “Last US cluster-bomb maker to cease production,” AFP, 1 September 2016.

[19] “Saudi Arabia admits it used UK-made cluster bombs in Yemen,” The Guardian, 19 December 2016.

[21] See the political declaration annexed to the “Final report of the Convention on Cluster Munitions Sixth Meeting of States Parties, Geneva, 5–7 September 2016,” CCM/MSP/2016/9, 30 September 2016.

[22] European Parliament, “Resolution on the situation in Yemen,” 30 November 2017. It adopted similar resolutions in 2015–2017 condemning the coalition’s use of cluster munitions in Yemen

[23] In July 2013, the Monitor reviewed photographs taken by clearance operators in Saada governorate showing the remnants of unexploded BLU-97 and BLU-61 submunitions as well as DPICM submunitions of an unknown origin. Interviews with Abdul Raqeeb Fare, Deputy Director, Yemen Executive Mine Action Center (YEMAC), Sanaa, 7 March 2013; andwith Ali al-Kadri, Director, YEMAC, in Geneva, 28 May 2013; and email from John Dingley, UN Development Programme (UNDP) Yemen, 9 July 2013.

[24] “VICE on HBO Debriefs: Crude Awakening & Enemy of My Enemy,” aired on the HBO Television Network, 19 May 2014; and Ben Anderson and Peter Salisbury, “US Cluster Bombs Keep Killing Civilians in Yemen,” VICE News, 16 May 2014. See also, “Saudi Arabia used cluster bombs against Houthi Shiites,” AhlulBayt News Agency, 19 May 2014.

[25] Multiple emails from Ben Anderson, Correspondent and Producer, VICE News, May 2014.

[26] Amnesty International published a series of photographs showing the remnants of the cruise missile, including the propulsion system, a BLU-97 submunition, and the payload ejection system, the latter of which is unique to the TLAM-D cruise missile. See also, “U.S. missiles killed civilians in Yemen, rights group says,” CNN, 7 June 2010.

[27] In December 2010, Wikileaks released a US Department of State cable dated 21 December 2009 that acknowledged the US had a role in the 17 December strike. The cable stated that Yemeni government officials “continue to publicly maintain that the operation was conducted entirely by its forces, acknowledging U.S. support strictly in terms of intelligence sharing. Deputy Prime Minister Rashad al-Alimi told the Ambassador on December 20 that any evidence of greater U.S. involvement such as fragments of U.S. munitions found at the sites - could be explained away as equipment purchased from the U.S.” See, “ROYG [Republic of Yemen Government] looks ahead following CT operations, but perhaps not far enough,” US Department of State cable SANAA 02230 dated 21 December 2009, released by Wikileaks on 4 December 2010.

[28] It also called on the Yemeni authorities to compensate victims and clear cluster munition remnants from the attack site. Republic of Yemen, “Special Parliamentarian Investigating Committee Report On Security Events in the Province of Abyan,” pp. 21–22 (in English), p. 16 (in Arabic), cited in HRW, “Between a Drone and Al-Qaeda,” 22 October 2013.