Saudi Arabia

Cluster Munition Ban Policy

Last updated: 08 July 2019

Summary: Non-signatory Saudi Arabia has not elaborated its views on the unacceptable harm caused by cluster munitions or taken any steps to join the convention. Saudi Arabia has participated as an observer in several meetings of the convention, but not since 2015. It abstained from voting on a key United Nations (UN) resolution promoting the convention in December 2018.

Saudi Arabia is not known to have produced or exported cluster munitions, but has imported them and possesses a stockpile. Saudi Arabia has used cluster munitions, most recently in Yemen as part of its operation since March 2015 against Ansar Allah (Houthi) forces.

Policy

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

Saudi Arabia has shown interest in the convention, but it has taken no steps towards accession. In 2017, Saudi Arabia’s Ambassador to the UN in Geneva acknowledged the humanitarian rationale for convention and said the government was considering its position on accession. [1]

Saudi Arabia participated in several meetings of the Oslo Process, including the Dublin negotiations in May 2008, as an observer. [2] Yet Saudi Arabia did not attend the Convention on Cluster Munitions Signing Conference in Oslo in December 2008.

Saudi Arabia has participated as an observer in meetings of the convention, but not since 2016. [3]

In December 2018, Saudi Arabia abstained from voting on a UN General Assembly (UNGA) resolution urging states outside the Convention on Cluster Munitions to “join as soon as possible.” [4] It did not explain why it has abstained from the vote on the annual UNGA resolution since it was first introduced in 2015.

Saudi Arabia has voted in favor of UNGA resolutions condemning the use of cluster munitions in Syria, most recently in December 2018. [5] It has also voted in favor of Human Rights Council resolutions condemning the use of cluster munitions in Syria, most recently in March 2019. [6]

Saudi Arabia is not party to the Mine Ban Treaty. Saudi Arabia is party to the Convention on Conventional Weapons.

Production and transfer

Saudi Arabia is not known to have produced or exported cluster munitions. It has imported and possesses cluster munitions.

In late May 2016, the Obama administration suspended all sales and deliveries of United States (US) cluster munitions to Saudi Arabia after reports that Saudi Arabia used them in civilian areas in Yemen. [7]

Stockpiling

Saudi Arabia has never provided information on the quantities or types of cluster munitions that it possesses, which are of Brazilian, US, and United Kingdom (UK) origin.

In 2013, Saudi Arabia purchased 1,300 CBU-105 Sensor Fuzed Weapons manufactured by US company Textron Defense Systems, after concluding another deal in 2011 for 404 CBU-105s. [8]

Cluster munitions previously transferred to Saudi Arabia from the US include 1,000 CBU-58 and 350 CBU-71 cluster bombs in 1970–1995. [9] The US concluded agreements with Saudi Arabia in 1991 to provide 1,200 CBU-87 Combined Effects Munitions cluster bombs and in 1992 for another 600 CBU-87 cluster bombs. [10]

Jane’s Information Group has reported that British-produced BL-755 cluster bombs are in service with the Saudi Air Force. [11] Saudi Arabia also possesses Hydra-70 and CRV-7 air-to-surface rockets, but it is not known if the stocks include the M261 submunition variant. [12]

Use

As a recipient of US cluster munitions, Saudi Arabia has agreed to use cluster munitions “only against clearly defined military targets and…not be used where civilians are known to be present or in areas normally inhabited by civilians.” [13]

Saudi Arabia has used cluster munitions, most recently in Yemen as part of its operation since March 2015 against Ansar Allah (Houthi) forces. There has been no evidence or allegations of cluster munition attacks by the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen since February 2017, but lack of access and information means additional cluster munition attacks could have gone unrecorded.

Use in Yemen: 2015–2017

There is evidence of at least 23 cluster munition attacks by the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen involving the use of seven types of air-delivered and ground-launched cluster munitions manufactured and exported by three countries.

Cluster munition attacks in Yemen (April 2015 to February 2017) [14]

Type of cluster munition

Country of origin

Stocks possessed by

Governorate and date of attack

Air-delivered

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

US

Saudi Arabia,

UAE

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

US

Saudi Arabia, Egypt

Al-Nushoor in Saada, 23 May 2015

Al-Maqash in Saada, 23 May 2015

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

US

Saudi Arabia,

Morocco

Sanaa City in Sanaa, 6 January 2016

BL-755 cluster bomb, each containing 147 No 2 Mk 1 submunitions

UK

Saudi Arabia

Al-Khadhra in Hajja, 6 January 2016

Ground-launched

ASTROS II rocket, each containing up to 65 submunitions

Brazil

Bahrain, Qatar,

Saudi Arabia

Central Saada, 15 February 2017

al-Dhubat in Saada, 6 December 2016

Ahma in Saada, 25 October 2015

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

US

Bahrain,

Egypt,

UAE

Bani Kaladah in Hajja, April/May 2015

Al-Hazan in Hajja, May/June 2015

Malus in Hajja, 7 June 2015

Dughayj in Hajja, June/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)

Unknown

Unknown

Baqim in Saada, 29 April 2015

 

The most recent use was in February 2017 when the Saudi-led coalition fired Brazilian-made ASTROS II cluster munition rockets on at least three locations in Saada governorate, according to investigations by Amnesty International and HRW. [15]

Between April 2015 and October 2016, the Saudi Arabia-led coalition used CBU-105 Sensor Fuzed Weapons in seven attacks. [16] Saudi Arabia’s spokesperson said the coalition used a CBU-105 once, in April 2015, but claimed they are not prohibited weapons. [17] The UAE also stockpiles CBU-105s, but has denied using them in Yemen. [18]

In May 2016, the Obama administration suspended US cluster munition transfers to Saudi Arabia following reports of civilian harm in Yemen. [19] 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. [20]

In 2015 and the first half of 2016, the Saudi-led coalition also used BL-755 cluster munitions made by the UK. [21] This marked the first time that UK-made cluster munitions had 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. [22] According to the UK, it last transferred BL-755 cluster munitions to Saudi Arabia in 1989. [23]

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.” [24]

Use in Yemen: 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 its 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. [25] Remnants of CBU-52 cluster bombs were filmed near Saada City. [26]
  • 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. [27] Yemen’s Soviet-supplied aircraft are capable of delivering Soviet-made RBK cluster bombs.

Other Use

In 1991, both Saudi and US forces used cluster munitions on the territory of Saudi Arabia in response to an incursion by Iraqi armored units in the prelude to Operation Desert Storm. During the battle of Khafji in January 1991, Saudi Arabia attacked Iraqi forces with cluster munitions fired from ASTROS multi-barrel rocket launchers, which Saudi Arabia had acquired from Brazil. [28] The weapons reportedly left behind a significant number of unexploded submunitions. [29]



 [1] Cluster Munition Coalition (CMC) interview with Amb. Abdulaziz Alwasil, Permanent Representative of Saudi Arabia to UN in Geneva, Geneva, 5 September 2017. Previously, in 2012, the diplomatic mission in Geneva informed the Monitor that the Convention on Cluster Munitions was “still under examination by the competent authorities in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.” Statement of the Embassy of Saudi Arabia to the UN in Geneva, to Human Rights Watch (HRW) Arms Division, 26 April 2012.

 [2] For more details on Saudi Arabia’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. 235.

 [3] Saudi Arabia has participated as an observer in the convention’s annual Meetings of States Parties in 2010–2014 and the First Review Conference in 2015. It did not make any statements at these meetings.

 [4]Implementation of the Convention on Cluster Munitions,” UNGA Resolution 73/54, 5 December 2018.

 [5]Situation of human rights in the Syrian Arab Republic,” UNGA Resolution 73/182, 17 December 2018. Saudi Arabia voted in favor of similar resolutions in 2013–2017.

 [6]The human rights situation in the Syrian Arab Republic,” Human Rights Council Resolution A/HRC/40/L.7, 22 March 2019.

 [7] According to a Foreign Policy article, a senior US official said the administration acknowledged reports that the weapons had been used “in areas in which civilians are alleged to have been present or in the vicinity.” 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.

 [8] The contract called for the construction of 1,300 cluster bomb units by December 2015. US Department of Defense, “Contracts,” No: 593-13, 20 August 2013. See also, US Defense Security and Cooperation Agency (DSCA) news release, “Saudi Arabia – CBU-105 Sensor Fuzed Weapons,” Transmittal No. 10-03, Washington, DC, 13 June 2011.

 [9] US DSCA, Department of Defense, “Cluster Bomb Exports under FMS, FY1970–FY1995,” 15 November 1995, obtained by HRW in a Freedom of Information Act request, 28 November 1995.

 [10] US DSCA, Department of Defense “Notifications to Congress of Pending US Arms Transfers,” 25 July 1991.

 [11] Robert Hewson, ed., Jane’s Air-Launched Weapons, Issue 44 (Surrey, UK: Jane’s Information Group Limited, 2004), p. 845.

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

 [13] This language is required by a US law restricting the export of cluster munitions. The Department of Defense also said “Saudi Arabia intends to use Sensor Fused [sic] Weapons to modernize its armed forces and enhance its capability to defeat a wide range of defensive threats, to include: strong points, bunkers, and dug-in facilities; armored and semi-armored vehicles; personnel; and certain maritime threats…The Royal Saudi Air Force will be able to develop and enhance its standardization and operational capability and its interoperability with the USAF, Gulf Cooperation Council member states, and other coalition air forces.” US DSCA, Department of Defense, “Saudi Arabia – CBU-105 Sensor Fuzed Weapons,” News Release #10-03, 13 June 2011.

 [16]اليمن : إسقاط طيران العدوان السعودي الامريكي قنابل مظلية محرمة دوليا,” YouTube.com, 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.

 [17] Asiri informed CNN on 4 May 2015 that Saudi Arabia had used CBU-105 in Yemen against armored vehicles only, describing it as an “antivehicle 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.

 [18] A diplomatic representative of the UAE told the CMC that the UAE 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.

 [19] 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.

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

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

 [24] 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.

 [25] 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; and with Ali al-Kadri, Director, YEMAC, in Geneva, 28 May 2013; and email from John Dingley, UN Development Programme (UNDP) Yemen, 9 July 2013.

 [26]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.

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

 [28] Terry Gander and Charles Cutshaw, eds., Jane’s Ammunition Handbook 2001–2002 (Surrey, UK: Jane’s Information Group Limited, 2001), p. 630.

 [29] 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 and Rockeye cluster bombs, names withheld, in Geneva, 2001–2003.


Mine Ban Policy

Last updated: 23 October 2017

Policy

The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has not acceded to the Mine Ban Treaty.

Saudi Arabia has made no recent statements regarding its intentions toward the Mine Ban Treaty. Previously, in July 2008, Saudi Arabia told the Monitor that it “is still in the process of studying” the treaty.[1] In 2004, Saudi Arabia stated that it supports the humanitarian objectives of the treaty.[2]

Officials have previously stated that Saudi Arabia does not want to forego its option to use antipersonnel mines in the future.[3] In October 2010, the government stated, “the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia seeks the elimination and destruction of anti-personnel mines. The Kingdom has contributed over 4.5 million U.S. dollars to this cause.”[4] In December 2010, a Saudi official told the Monitor that “his country policy on landmine[s] has not changed.”[5]

Saudi Arabia abstained from voting on UN General Assembly (UNGA) Resolution 71/34 calling for universalization of the Mine Ban Treaty on 5 December 2016, as it has for every annual pro-ban UNGA resolution since 1996.

Saudi Arabia has participated as an observer in most recent meetings of the Convention, including the Fifteenth Meeting of States Parties in Santiago, Chile, in November–December 2016. It attended as an observer at the convention’s Third Review Conference in Maputo, Mozambique, but did not make any statements.

Saudi Arabia is party to the Convention on Conventional Weapons, but has yet to join its Amended Protocol II on landmines.

Use, production, transfer, and stockpiling

In 2016 and 2017, reports of mine use and seizures have occurred in southern Saudi Arabia on its borders with Yemen, in Aseer and Jazan provinces. Saudi Arabia has attributed the use of mines on its borders to Yemeni Houthi rebels as well as smugglers.[6] In the majority of news reports, there is no attribution for the mine use, however in December 2013, representatives of Saudi Arabia stated to the ICBL that they were not using mines on their border with Yemen.[7] In some cases, significant quantities of landmines have been seized.[8]

Previously, in 2008, Saudi Arabia stated to the Monitor, “the Kingdom has not produced nor exported any type of mines…The Kingdom possesses a stockpile of old anti-personnel mines however; these mines have never been used. There are no stockpiles of American-owned anti-personnel mines inside the Kingdom.” It went on to note that it has “a number of legislations and procedures…that regulate importing, producing and storing anti-personnel mines.”[9]

Landmine Monitor has previously reported that Saudi Arabia is not known to have produced, exported, or used antipersonnel mines, but that it stockpiles a small number imported in the past.[10]



[1] Letter from Saud M. Alsati, Counselor-Political, Royal Embassy of Saudi Arabia, Washington, DC, 9 July 2008. Previously, in 2004, Saudi officials have said that they did not wish to forego its option to use antipersonnel mines in the future. See, ICBL, Landmine Monitor 2005.

[2] See, for example, statement by Brig.-Gen. Ibrahim Bin Mohammed al Arifi, Ministry of Defense, First Review Conference, Nairobi, 3 December 2004.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Statement by Amb. Khalid A. Al-Nafisee, Permanent Mission of Saudi Arabia to the UN, 65th Session, UNGA First Committee, New York, 6 October 2010. The statement went on to say that Saudi Arabia had “signed the 1997 Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Anti-Personnel Mines commonly referred to as the Ottawa Convention or the Mine Ban Treaty.” However, Saudi Arabia is not party to the treaty.

[5] Interview with Soliman Al Hammad, Head of Saudi Delegation, Ministry of Defense, Tenth Meeting of States Parties, Mine Ban Treaty, Geneva, 2 December 2010.

[6] See, “Saudi soldier killed by landmine near Yemen border,” Middle East Online, 9 December 2016; and Mohammed Al-Sulami, “Saudi Border Guards stops efforts to plant land mines, smuggle weapons in southern Kingdom,” Arab News, 20 March 2017.

[7] ICBL meeting with representative of Saudi Arabia to Mine Ban Treaty Thirteenth Meeting of States Parties, Geneva, 5 December 2013. Notes by the ICBL.

[9] Letter from Saud M. Alsati, Royal Embassy of Saudi Arabia, Washington, DC, 9 July 2008.

[10] See, Landmine Monitor Report 2004, pp. 1,107–1,108.


Mine Action

Last updated: 17 December 2012

Contamination and Impact

Saudi Arabia is not mine-affected but it may have a small residual problem of unexploded ordnance from the 1991 Gulf War, including cluster munition remnants. In 1991, Saudi Arabian and United States forces used artillery-delivered and air-dropped cluster munitions against Iraqi forces during the Battle of Khafji.[1]

Mine Action Program

Saudi Arabia does not have a civilian mine action program. The engineering corps of the Saudi Army has a unit in every region of the kingdom to respond to requests for clearance. These units cleared training areas and camps used by allied forces before and during the 1991 Gulf War. No information is available on any recent clearance activities.

 



[1] See, for example, Human Rights Watch, “Timeline of Cluster Munition Use,” CMC, 2009, www.stopclustermunitions.org.


Support for Mine Action

Last updated: 15 September 2015

In 2014, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia contributed US$100,000 to mine action activities in Afghanistan through the UN Voluntary Trust Fund for Assistance in Mine Action (VTF).[1] No mine action contribution from Saudi Arabia was reported in 2013.

In 2012, Saudi Arabia provided US$1,000,000 in mine action funding to Lebanon and $100,000 in Afghanistan through the VTF.[2]

 



[1] UN Mine Action Service (UNMAS), Annual Report 2014, September 2015, p. 22.

[2] UNMAS, Annual Report 2012, p. 39.


Casualties

Last updated: 31 January 2019

 

Casualties

All known casualties(between 2015 and 2018)

7 mine/unexploded remnants of war (ERW) casualties: 4 killed and 3 injured

Casualties in 2017

Annual total

1

Decrease from 5 in 2016

Survival outcome

1 killed

Device type causing casualties

1 unspecified mine

Civilian status

1 Military

Age and gender

1 Man

 

Casualties in 2017

One landmine casualty was reported in Saudi Arabia in 2017. On 15 June a soldier from the Saudi border guards was reported to have been killed when a landmine exploded in the southwestern province of Jazan on the border with Yemen.[1]

Five casualties were reported on the border with Yemen in 2016. In a border guard was been killed by a landmine in Jazan in May 2016.[2] In July 2016 a Saudi soldier was killed and three were injured by a landmine explosion in Jazan.[3]

In June 2015 a Saudi soldier was killed by a landmine in the area of Jebel Towaileq in Jazan.[4]

No mine/ERW casualties were reported in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in 2018. Casualties, however, continued to be reported in 2019. In January a 10-year-old child was killed and three people injured, two children and a 29-year-old woman, in a landmine explosion in the Al-Arda governorate in Jazan province. It was reported that the landmine, originally planted in Yemen, was washed within the borders of Saudi Arabia by rain.[5]



[1] Mohammed Al-Sulami, “Saudi soldier killed in land mine blast in Jazan,” Arab News, 15 June 2017.

[2]Landmine kills Saudi soldier on Yemen border,” Express Tribune, 24 May 2016

[4]Landmine blast kills Saudi army officer,” KUNA, 18 June 2015.

[5] Aarti Nagraj, “Landmine explosion kills 10-year-old, injures three in Saudi,” Gulf Business, 7 January 2019.