Cluster Munition Ban Policy
Summary: Non-signatory Brazil has expressed long-standing objections to the convention. It has participated in some meetings of the convention, but not since 2014, and abstained from voting on a key UN resolution on the convention in December 2016. Brazil is a producer and exporter of cluster munitions and maintains a stockpile, but has never used cluster munitions. Brazil has not commented on use of Brazilian-made cluster munition rockets by the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen since 2015 that have caused civilian casualties.
The Federative Republic of Brazil has not acceded to the Convention on Cluster Munitions.
In October 2016, Brazil articulated its long-standing objections to both the process and provisions of the convention in an explanation of its decision to abstain from the vote on a UN General Assembly (UNGA) resolution that urges states outside the Convention on Cluster Munitions to “join as soon as possible.” The statement repeated the remarks that Brazil made one year before upon abstaining from the first UNGA resolution on the convention.
According to the 2016 statement, Brazil did not participate in the Oslo Process that created the ban convention in 2008 because, in its view, the process of concluding it outside the UN was not “consistent” with “the goal of promoting the adoption of universal, balanced, effective and non-discriminatory arms control instruments.” It described certain provisions of the Convention on Cluster Munitions as “serious loopholes.” Brazil has falsely claimed the convention’s definition allows for the “use of cluster munitions equipped with technologically sophisticated mechanisms, for an indefinite period of time” and said “such mechanisms are present only in those munitions manufactured in a small number of countries with more advanced defense industries.” It also claims that the convention’s “effectiveness” is “undermined” by its Article 21 interoperability clause on relations with states not party.
Brazil participated minimally in the Oslo Process that produced the Convention on Cluster Munitions, but did not attend the formal negotiations in Dublin in May 2008. In June 2008, after the adoption of the Convention on Cluster Munitions, Brazil’s then-Minister of Foreign Affairs Celso Amorim said that he considered cluster munitions to be an inhumane weapon that should be eliminated, and said that Brazil would review its position and in the future may join the convention. However by November 2008, Brazil said the government did not support the convention because of its view that the process and convention do not balance legitimate defense needs with humanitarian concerns.
Brazil has participated as an observer in two meetings of the Convention on Cluster Munitions: the Second Meeting of States Parties in Beirut, Lebanon, in September 2011 and intersessional meetings in Geneva in April 2014. Brazil was invited to, but did not attend, the convention’s Sixth Meeting of States Parties in September 2016.
Brazil has voted in favor of UNGA resolutions expressing outrage at the use of cluster munitions in Syria, most recently in December 2016. It voted in favor of Human Rights Council resolutions that condemned the use of cluster munitions in Syria, most recently in March 2017.
Since 2008, there have been at least two legislative initiatives to ban cluster munitions in the lower house of the National Congress but neither progressed beyond the committee stage. Deputy Rubens Bueno introduced draft legislation to ban cluster munitions in February 2012, while Deputy Fernando Gabeira introduced similar legislation in February 2009. Campaigners have participated in congressional briefings on cluster munitions, sometimes on the same panel as military representatives.
Brazil is a State Party to the Mine Ban Treaty.
Brazil is a State Party to the Convention on Conventional Weapons (CCW) and in the past supported efforts to create a new CCW protocol that would have permitted the use of cluster munitions. Brazil has not proposed any further CCW work on cluster munitions since 2011, when the effort to create a new protocol on cluster munitions failed. This effectively ended CCW deliberations on the topic and has left the Convention on Cluster Munitions as the sole international instrument dedicated to ending the suffering caused by these weapons.
Brazil has stated on several occasions that it has never used cluster munitions, most recently in October 2016.
Production, transfer, and stockpiling
Brazil has been a significant producer and exporter of cluster munitions, and maintains a stockpile of the weapons.
At least three companies have produced cluster munitions in Brazil, according to the companies’ own materials and standard reference works:
- Avribrás Aeroespacial SA has produced ASTROS surface-to-surface rockets with submunition warheads;
- Ares Aeroespacial e Defesa Ltda has produced the FZ-100 70mm air-to-surface rockets, similar to the Hydra M261 multipurpose submunitions; and
- Target Engenharia et Comércio Ltda has produced two types of cluster bombs (BLG-120 and BLG-252) for the Brazilian Air Force and reportedly for export.
It is not clear if any of these companies are currently producing cluster munitions.
On 9 March 2017, Avibrás did not deny continued production, but claimed that since 2001, its ASTROS cluster munition rockets have been equipped with a “reliable self-destruct device that complies with humanitarian principles and legislation” of the Convention on Cluster Munitions. This is not the first time that Avribrás has claimed that its cluster munition rockets “meet 100% of UN rules.” When equipped with a warhead containing submunitions the SS-60 or SS-80 rockets launched by the ASTROS system are banned by the Convention on Cluster Munitions. The company’s website does not mention the submunition warhead.
It is not clear when Brazil last exported cluster munitions. Brazil has exported ASTROS-manufactured surface-to-surface rockets with submunition warheads to Iran, Iraq, Malaysia, and Saudi Arabia.
The Saudi Arabia-led coalition has used ASTROS cluster munition rockets in Yemen on multiple occasions since 2015. Human Rights Watch documented ASTROS cluster munition rocket attacks in Saada on 6 December 2016 and 22 February 2017. Photographs reportedly taken in Saada governorate and published online by activists on 21 May 2017 show the remnants of ASTROS cluster munition rockets.
Previously, Saudi Arabian forces used the ASTROS cluster munition rockets against Iraqi forces during the battle of Khafji in January 1991, which resulted in remnants including a significant number of unexploded submunitions. In 2003, Human Rights Watch researchers photographed abandoned stocks of the ASTROS II rockets at an unsecured facility in Iraq.
In July 2012, a major newspaper reported that Brazil sold cluster bombs made by Target Engenharia et Comércio Ltda to Zimbabwe a decade earlier.
In 2011, Deputy Gabeira said the government refused “as a matter of security” to respond to his request for a list of the countries where Brazil has exported cluster munitions.
In 2010, the Ministry of Defense stated that Brazil’s stockpiles of cluster munitions are limited, and that cluster bombs held by the air force should be destroyed soon because they are out of date.
 “Implementation of the Convention on Cluster Munitions,” UNGA Resolution 71/45, 5 December 2016.
 Statement of Brazil, UNGA First Committee on Disarmament and International Security, New York, 4 November 2015.
 See, statement of Brazil, UNGA First Committee on Disarmament and International Security, New York, 31 October 2016; and “Implementation of the Convention on Cluster Munitions,” UNGA Resolution 70/54, 7 December 2015.
 For more details on Brazil’s policy and practice regarding cluster munitions through early 2009, see Human Rights Watch (HRW) and Landmine Action, Banning Cluster Munitions: Government Policy and Practice (Ottawa: Mines Action Canada, May 2009), pp. 191–193.
 The remarks were made during a meeting of the National Congress Chamber of Deputies Committee on Foreign Affairs and National Defense. Mylena Fiori, “Brasil poderá aderir a acordo para acabar com produção de bombas cluster” (“Brazil may join the agreement to end production of cluster bombs”), 17 June 2008.
 Statement of Brazil, CCW Group of Governmental Experts (GGE) on Cluster Munitions, Geneva, 7 November 2008. Notes by Landmine Action.
 “Situation of human rights in the Syrian Arab Republic,” UNGA Resolution 71/203, 19 December 2016. Brazil voted in favor of similar resolutions in 2013–2014.
 See, “The human rights situation in the Syrian Arab Republic,” Human Rights Council Resolution 34/26, 24 March 2017.
 The 2012 legislation—Bill 3228/2012—was referred to committee for further consideration. Chamber of Deputies, Proposition PL-3228/2012. The 2009 bill was removed from consideration after Gabeira left office at the end of 2010. Chamber of Deputies, Proposition PL-4590/2009.
 Statement of Brazil, UNGA First Committee on Disarmament and International Security, New York, 31 October 2016.
 Statements of Brazil, CCW GGE on Cluster Munitions, Geneva, 8 April 2008, 16 February 2009, and 14 April 2009. Notes by Landmine Action.
 In 2010, a representative from Avribrás said that the company generates US$60–70 million per year from cluster munitions and claimed that cluster bombs produced by Avribrás have a failure rate of less than 1%. Statement by José de Sá Carvalho, Jr, Commercial Director–Brazil and Americas, Avribrás Aeroespacial SA, Hearing Committee on Foreign Affairs and National Defense of the Chamber of Deputies, Brasilia, 4 May 2010; and “Report on the Hearing,” provided by Gustavo Oliveira Vieira, Brazil Campaign to Ban Landmines and Cluster Bombs, received 13 August 2010. In a letter to the minister of defense, the CMC noted this claim and stated, “However, failure rates in combat are always higher than failure rates in tests and so reliability performance in tests does not prevent the humanitarian harm that is caused in reality.” Letter from the CMC to Nelson Jobim, Minister of Defense, 17 May 2010.
 Aeroespacial e Defesa Ltda, “Cabeza Cargo de Submuniciones” (“Head charged submunitions”), undated.
 Brazilian Association of the Industries of Defense Materials and Security, “Product List, 2000 to December 2005,” undated.
 Luiza Souto, “Brazilian company denies NGO denunciation on cluster bombs in Yemen,” Globo, 3 March 2017.
 Leandro Prazeres, “Brasil dá incentivos fiscais para armamento banido pela ONU,” UOL Notícias, 12 September 2014.
 Mark Hiznay, “Subsidizing Brazil’s production of cluster munitions,” Landmine and Cluster Munition Monitor blog, 18 September 2014.
 Terry J. Gander and Charles Q. Cutshaw, eds., Jane’s Ammunition Handbook 2001–2002 (Surrey, UK: Jane’s Information Group Limited, 2001); and Jonathan Beaty and S.C. Gwynne, “Scandals: Not Just a Bank,” Time Magazine, 2 September 1991. Brazil exported the ASTROS system to Malaysia in 2002 and an additional sale of more launch units was completed in 2010, but it is not known if the ammunition types include the variant with a submunition payload. Federative Republic of Brazil, UN Register of Conventional Arms, Submission for Calendar Year 2002, 28 April 2004. It reported the transfer of 12 launch units. The Arms Transfers Database of the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute notes that the US$300 million deal was signed in 2007 and deliveries began in 2009.
 Amnesty International, “Yemen: Brazilian cluster munitions suspected in Saudi Arabia-led coalition attack,” 30 October 2015. See also, HRW, “Technical Briefing Note: Cluster Munitions in Yemen,” February 2016.
 HRW, “Yemen: Cluster Munitions Wound Children,” 17 March 2017; and HRW, “Yemen: Brazil-Made Cluster Munitions Harm Civilians,” 23 December 2016.
 Ahmad Algohbary (@AhmadAlgohbary), “Photo of cluster bombs dropped by #Saudi jets today on Ketaf area #Saada #Yemen #UK & #US r involved n this crimes Can anyone identify it?,” 11.12am, 21 May 2017, Tweet.
 HRW interviews with former explosive ordnance disposal personnel from a western commercial clearance firm and a Saudi military officer with first-hand experience in clearing the unexploded submunitions from ASTROS rockets, names withheld, in Geneva, 2001–2003.
 Mark Hiznay, “Subsidizing Brazil’s production of cluster munitions,” Landmine and Cluster Munition Monitor blog, 18 September 2014.
 Rubens Valente, “Brasil vendeu bombas condenadas a ditador do Zimbábue” (“Brazil sells condemned bombs to Zimbabwe dictator”), Folha de São Paolo, 22 July 2012. A review by Folha de São Paolo of 1,572 pages of Ministry of Defense documents obtained under the Law on Access to Information shows that, in the period from January 2001 to May 2002, Brazil transferred 104 BLG-250K, four BLG-60K cluster bombs, and various components for BLG-500K, BLG-250K, and BLG-60k cluster bombs to Zimbabwe. This was the most recent period that could be obtained by Folha de São Paolo, as the information is considered confidential for the first 10 years. Email from Rubens Valente, Folha de São Paolo, 24 July 2012.
 Gabeira Brasil media statement, “Líbia e os outros,” 3 April 2011.
 Statement by Marcelo Mário de Holanda Coutinho, Ministry of Defense, Hearing Committee on Foreign Affairs and National Defense of the Chamber of Deputies, Brasilia, 4 May 2010; and “Report on the Hearing,” provided by Gustavo Oliveira Vieira, Brazil Campaign to Ban Landmines and Cluster Bombs, received 13 August 2010.