Brazil

Cluster Munition Ban Policy

Last updated: 01 August 2017

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.

Policy

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.”[1] The statement repeated the remarks that Brazil made one year before upon abstaining from the first UNGA resolution on the convention.[2]

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.”[3] 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.[4] 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.[5] 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.[6]

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.[7] It voted in favor of Human Rights Council resolutions that condemned the use of cluster munitions in Syria, most recently in March 2017.[8]

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.[9] 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.

Use

Brazil has stated on several occasions that it has never used cluster munitions, most recently in October 2016.[10]

Production, transfer, and stockpiling

Brazil has been a significant producer and exporter of cluster munitions, and maintains a stockpile of the weapons.[11]

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;[12]
  • Ares Aeroespacial e Defesa Ltda has produced the FZ-100 70mm air-to-surface rockets, similar to the Hydra M261 multipurpose submunitions;[13] 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.[14]

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.[15] This is not the first time that Avribrás has claimed that its cluster munition rockets “meet 100% of UN rules.”[16] 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.[17] 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.[18]

The Saudi Arabia-led coalition has used ASTROS cluster munition rockets in Yemen on multiple occasions since 2015.[19] Human Rights Watch documented ASTROS cluster munition rocket attacks in Saada on 6 December 2016 and 22 February 2017.[20] Photographs reportedly taken in Saada governorate and published online by activists on 21 May 2017 show the remnants of ASTROS cluster munition rockets.[21] 

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.[22] In 2003, Human Rights Watch researchers photographed abandoned stocks of the ASTROS II rockets at an unsecured facility in Iraq.[23]

In July 2012, a major newspaper reported that Brazil sold cluster bombs made by Target Engenharia et Comércio Ltda to Zimbabwe a decade earlier.[24]

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.[25]

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.[26]



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

[2] Statement of Brazil, UNGA First Committee on Disarmament and International Security, New York, 4 November 2015.

[3] 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.

[4] 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.

[5] 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.

[6] Statement of Brazil, CCW Group of Governmental Experts (GGE) on Cluster Munitions, Geneva, 7 November 2008. Notes by Landmine Action.

[7]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.

[8] See, “The human rights situation in the Syrian Arab Republic,” Human Rights Council Resolution 34/26, 24 March 2017.

[9] 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.

[10] Statement of Brazil, UNGA First Committee on Disarmament and International Security, New York, 31 October 2016.

[11] Statements of Brazil, CCW GGE on Cluster Munitions, Geneva, 8 April 2008, 16 February 2009, and 14 April 2009. Notes by Landmine Action.

[12] 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.

[13] Aeroespacial e Defesa Ltda, “Cabeza Cargo de Submuniciones” (“Head charged submunitions”), undated.

[14] Brazilian Association of the Industries of Defense Materials and Security, “Product List, 2000 to December 2005,” undated.

[16] Leandro Prazeres, “Brasil dá incentivos fiscais para armamento banido pela ONU,” UOL Notícias, 12 September 2014.

[17] Mark Hiznay, “Subsidizing Brazil’s production of cluster munitions,” Landmine and Cluster Munition Monitor blog, 18 September 2014.

[18] 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.

[20] HRW, “Yemen: Cluster Munitions Wound Children,” 17 March 2017; and HRW, “Yemen: Brazil-Made Cluster Munitions Harm Civilians,” 23 December 2016.

[21] 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.

[22] 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.

[23] Mark Hiznay, “Subsidizing Brazil’s production of cluster munitions,” Landmine and Cluster Munition Monitor blog, 18 September 2014.

[24] 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.

[25] Gabeira Brasil media statement, “Líbia e os outros,” 3 April 2011.

[26] 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.

Mine Ban Policy

Last updated: 25 November 2013

The Federative Republic of Brazil signed the Mine Ban Treaty on 3 December 1997 and ratified it on 30 April 1999, becoming a State Party on 1 October 1999. Brazil is a former antipersonnel mine producer, importer, and exporter. Since 2012, Brazil has stated that it has not produced or exported landmines since signing the Mine Ban Treaty.[1] Brazil has never used antipersonnel mines. Legislation to enforce the antipersonnel mine prohibition domestically was enacted in 2001. In 2013, Brazil submitted its 14th Mine Ban Treaty Article 7 report.

Brazil completed destruction of its stockpile of approximately 27,852 antipersonnel mines in March 2003, ahead of its 1 October 2003 treaty-mandated destruction deadline. Brazil initially retained 17,000 mines for training purposes, but this was reduced to 10,051 by the end of 2009.[2] The number was further reduced in 2012, when 1,063 mines were destroyed for training purposes.[3] According to the 2013 report, another 1,326 mines were destroyed by December 2012, bringing the total number to 6,587: 1,400 T-AB-1 held by the Brazilian Navy and 5,187 held by the Brazilian Army (5,151 NM-409 mines and 36 DFC-19 mines).[4] Brazil has stated its intention to keep mines for training up to 2019.[5]

Brazil attended the Mine Ban Treaty Twelfth Meeting of States Parties in Geneva in December 2012. Brazil did not attend intersessional Standing Committee meetings in Geneva in May 2013 but participated in the intersessional meetings in May 2012 and June 2011.

Brazil is party to the Convention on Conventional Weapons (CCW) and its Amended Protocol II on landmines. It has provided national annual reports as required by the amended protocol, most recently on 3 April 2013 (for calendar year 2012). Brazil joined CCW Protocol V on explosive remnants of war on 30 November 2010 and has delivered the annual reports required by the protocol since 2011, most recently on 5 March 2013 (for 2012).

In 2011, Human Rights Watch (HRW) documented the use of Brazilian-produced T-AB-1 plastic antipersonnel mines in Libya by Qaddafi government forces in six separate locations.[6] In December 2011, Brazil condemned the landmine use and said it intended to make a financial contribution to Libya’s mine action program and provide technical cooperation.[7] Brazilian officials said that an internal investigation had been opened into the origins and transfer of the T-AB-1 mines to Libya, but the results were not known as of September 2013.[8]

 



[1] Brazil has also reported: “In early 1998, the Brazilian Armed Forces received its last shipment of landmines, which had been bought in 1996 and produced by the manufacturer in 1997.” See Mine Ban Treaty Article 7 Report 2012 (for calendar year 2011), Form E; Convention on Conventional Weapons (CCW) Amended Protocol II Report 2013 (for calendar year 2012), Form C, 3 April 2013. Before 2012, it stated, “Brazil has not produced or exported landmines since 1989.” See Mine Ban Treaty Article 7 Report 2011 (for calendar year 2010), Form E; CCW Amended Protocol II Report 2010 (for calendar year 2009), Form C, 22 July 2010.

[2] Mine Ban Treaty Article 7 Report 2010 (for calendar year 2009), Form D.

[3] Mine Ban Treaty Article 7 Report 2012 (for calendar year 2011), Form G.

[4] Mine Ban Treaty Article 7 Report 2013 (for calendar year 2012), Forms D and G.

[5] Mine Ban Treaty Article 7 Report 2011 (for calendar year 2010), Forms D and G.

[6] HRW, “Landmines in Libya: Technical Briefing Note,” 19 July 2011.

[7] Statement of Brazil, Mine Ban Treaty Eleventh Meeting of States Parties, Phnom Penh, 2 December 2011. Notes by the ICBL.

[8] There is no export record of the shipments because arms export records are not held for longer than 10 years. HRW meeting with Brazilian delegation to intersessional Standing Committee meetings of the Mine Ban Treaty, Geneva, 27 June 2011. In June 2011, the ICBL asked that Brazil publicly condemn the use of antipersonnel mines in Libya and provide detailed information on the transfer of T-AB-1 antipersonnel mines to Libya, including the date of manufacture and transfer, as well as the number of mines exported. ICBL letter to Antonio de Aguiar Patriota, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Brazil, 13 June 2011.