Cluster Munition Ban Policy

Last updated: 02 August 2017

Summary: Non-signatory Bahrain has expressed support for the ban on cluster munitions, but has not taken any steps to accede to the convention. Bahrain has never participated in a meeting of the convention and abstained from the vote on a key UN resolution on the convention in December 2016.

Bahrain is not known to have produced or exported cluster munitions, but stockpiles cluster munitions primarily imported from the United States (US). Since March 2015, Bahrain has participated in a Saudi Arabia-led military operation in Yemen that has used cluster munitions.


The Kingdom of Bahrain has not acceded to the Convention on Cluster Munitions.

Bahrain has expressed support for a ban on cluster munitions and said it is studying the convention, but it has not taken any steps towards accession.[1] In October 2016, a diplomat from Bahrain told the Cluster Munition Coalition that the government’s position on joining the convention has not changed.[2] During the Wellington Conference on Cluster Munitions in February 2008, Bahrain called upon states “to stop using such weapons, and should consider such use as a crime against humanity” and affirmed it “strongly supports all efforts to eliminate all kinds of cluster munitions, and to prohibit their use, transfer, trade and stockpiling.”[3]

In December 2016, Bahrain abstained from voting on a UN General Assembly (UNGA) resolution, which urges states outside the Convention on Cluster Munitions to “join as soon as possible.”[4] It also abstained from voting on the first UNGA resolution on the convention in December 2015.[5]

Bahrain participated in a couple of meetings of the Oslo Process that created the convention and joined in the consensus adoption of the convention in Dublin in May 2008, but did not attend the signing conference in Oslo in December 2008.[6]

Bahrain has not participated in any meetings of the Convention on Cluster Munitions, even as an observer.

Bahrain has voted in favor of UNGA resolutions expressing outrage at the use of cluster munitions in Syria, most recently in December 2016.[7]

Bahrain is not party to the Mine Ban Treaty. It is not party to the Convention on Conventional Weapons.

Production, transfer, and stockpiling

Bahrain is not known to have produced or exported cluster munitions, but it imported them and has a sizable stockpile.

Bahrain imported cluster munitions from the US, but the most recent transfer is not known. Between 1995 and 2001, the US transferred 30,000 artillery projectiles (M509A1, M449A1, and M483) containing 5.06 million dual-purpose improved conventional munition (DPICM) submunitions to Bahrain as the weapon was phased out of the US inventory.[8] The US has also provided M26 rockets and ATACMS-1A missiles with more than 1 million submunitions to Bahrain for its M270 multiple launch rocket system (MLRS) launchers. Bahrain purchased 151 M26A1 MLRS extended range rocket pods (six missiles per pod, 644 submunitions per rocket) in 1996, 55 rocket pods in 1997, and 57 rocket pods in 2003.[9] In 2000, the US sold Bahrain 30 M39 ATACMS-1A missiles, each with 950 M74 submunitions.[10]

Additionally Jane’s Information Group lists Bahrain as possessing the Hydra-70 air-to-surface unguided rocket system, but it is not known if this stockpile includes the M261 multipurpose submunition variant. The same source lists UK-made BL755 cluster bombs as being part of the inventory of Bahrain’s air force.[11]


Since March 2015, Bahrain has participated in a Saudi-led joint military operation against Houthi forces, also known as Ansar Allah, in Yemen, which has used cluster munitions.

Bahrain has not commented on evidence that the Saudi-led coalition has used cluster munitions in Yemen, including Brazilian-made ASTROS cluster munition rockets of the same type that Bahrain possesses.[12] However, a statement by the “Coalition Forces Supporting Legitimacy in Yemen” published by the Saudi Press Agency in December 2016 states:

“International law does not ban the use of cluster munitions. Some States have undertaken a commitment to refrain from using cluster munitions by becoming party to the 2008 Convention on Cluster Munitions. Neither the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia nor its Coalition partners are State Parties to the 2008 Convention, and accordingly, the Coalition’s use of cluster munitions does not violate the obligations of these States under international law.”[13]


[1] In 2011, a Ministry of Foreign Affairs official said Bahrain was studying the convention and the Mine Ban Treaty and considering its position on joining, taking into account “positions of other states in the region.” Statement by Amb. Karim E. al-Shakar, Undersecretary of International Affairs, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, at a Monitor Event, Manama, 2 January 2011. Notes by Protection Against Armaments and their Consequences. Previously, in 2009, a government minister also said that authorities in Bahrain were studying the possibility of joining the convention, which he described as necessary “to avoid further civilian casualties from these weapons.” The minister also noted that “Bahrain was closely involved in the process of negotiating the Convention…driven by my Government’s deep concern to ensure the protection of civilians from such indiscriminate weapons.” Letter from Khalid bin Ahmed al-Khalifa, Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, to Human Rights Watch (HRW), 23 August 2009 (forwarded to HRW by the Embassy of the Kingdom of Bahrain, Washington, DC, 11 September 2009).

[2] ICBL-CMC meeting with Aysha Hamad, Third Secretary, Permanent Mission of Bahrain to the UN in New York, New York, October 2016.

[3] Statement by Amb. al-Shakar, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Wellington Conference on Cluster Munitions, 18 February 2008.

[4]Implementation of the Convention on Cluster Munitions,” UNGA Resolution 71/45, 5 December 2016.

[5]Implementation of the Convention on Cluster Munitions,” UNGA Resolution 70/54, 7 December 2015.

[6] For details on Bahrain’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), pp. 189–190.

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

[8] US Defense Security Cooperation Agency, Department of Defense, “Excess Defense Articles,” undated.

[9] US Department of Defense, “Memorandum for Correspondents No. 091-M,” 10 May 1996; and Lockheed Martin Corporation press release, “Bahrain Purchases Lockheed Martin’s Multiple Launch Rocket System Extended-Range Rockets,” 20 December 2003.

[10] US Department of Defense, “News Release No. 591-00: Proposed Foreign Military Sale to Bahrain Announced,” 26 September 2000. The 30 ATACMS missiles contained 28,500 submunitions.

[11] Colin King, ed., Jane’s Explosive Ordnance Disposal, CD-edition, 14 December 2007 (Surrey, UK: Jane’s Information Group Limited, 2008).