Remnant from a U.S. cluster munition in Yemen. (Screengrab from HRW video below)
A human rights watchdog said Wednesday it has fresh evidence the Saudi-led coalition used U.S. cluster bombs, resulting in the deaths of dozens of civilians in Yemen.
Human Rights Watch said it identified United States-made, ground-launched M26 cluster munition rockets that were likely used in seven attacks in the country's northwestern Hajja governorate between late April and mid-July. The group said it visited four of the seven sites, and also spoke with witnesses of the attacks who said that three children were among the 13 civilians killed in the attacks. The group viewed photographic evidence of unexploded munition remnants at the other sites, it said.
HRW adds in a media statement: "Several of the attacks took place in or near areas with concentrations of civilians, indicating that the rocket attacks themselves may have been unlawfully indiscriminate in violation of the laws of war."
"The loss of civilian life in Hajja shows why most countries have made a commitment never to use cluster munitions," said Ole Solvang, senior emergencies researcher with HRW. "These weapons not only kill or injure people at the time of attack, but the unexploded submunitions go on killing long afterward."
Neither the U.S., Saudi Arabia, or Yemen have joined the Convention on Cluster Munitions, which bans their use.
HRW has previously warned that cluster munitions have been used by the coalition, and an anonymous Pentagon official toldU.S. News this month that "the U.S. is aware that Saudi Arabia has used cluster munitions in Yemen."
The United States is providing a thinly-veiled cover virtually legitimizing the use of cluster bombs – banned by an international convention – by Saudi Arabia and its allies in their heavy fighting against Houthi rebels in Yemen.
Asked if cluster bombs are legitimate weapons of war, “if used appropriately”, U.S. State Department spokesman John Kirby told reporters: “If used appropriately, there are end-use regulations regarding the use of them. But yes, when used appropriately and according (to) those end-use rules, it’s permissible.”
Over 4,000 people have been killed in the conflict in Yemen since March, and though international aid groups continue to warn of the dire humanitarian situation gripping the impoverished country, it remains a largely ignored crisis.
President of the International Committee of the Red Cross, Peter Maurer, said this month, "The humanitarian situation is nothing short of catastrophic. Every family in Yemen has been affected by this conflict. The people are facing immense hardship. And it is getting worse by the day.
"The world needs to wake up to what is going on," said Maurer.
See more on HRW's new findings in the group's video below:
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