Political Analysis

Rights Watch Accuses Saudi Of Dropping Cluster Bombs In Yemen

National Yemen

(CNN) Human Rights Watch has accused Saudi Arabia of dropping U.S.-supplied cluster bombs in the fight against Houthi rebels in Yemen.

The small bombs, if unexploded, can lie dormant and then detonate when people stumble upon one by chance, killing or maiming them as a result.

An international treaty against cluster bombs has been adopted by 116 countries, but the United States, Saudi Arabia and Yemen are not among them.

CNN has reached out to officials in Washington and Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, for comment on the allegations and is awaiting responses.

Human Rights Watch (HRW) included video, marked-up satellite maps and photos in its report.

The video shows delivery devices falling from the sky by small parachutes then deploying the bombs with a burst of black smoke in midair. Shallow explosions spread over areas on the ground below. The images were shot by pro-Houthis in April, HRW said.

The particular cluster munition systems HRW said were used are CBU-105 Sensor Fuzed Weapons, which are guided bombs intended to take out tanks and other armored vehicles with a flurry of explosions spread out over an area.

If the cluster bombs fail to detect their target, they are designed to self-destruct in the air, or if that fails, to deactivate themselves after a short time. But sometimes those mechanisms don’t work, posing a lethal danger for those who later encounter them.

The U.S. Department of Defense has said it will stop the transfer to foreign governments of cluster munitions that leave behind more than 1% of their bombs unexploded — but not until after 2018.

“Saudi-led cluster munition airstrikes have been hitting areas near villages, putting local people in danger,” Steve Goose, the director of HRW’s arms division, said in a statement. “These weapons should never be used under any circumstances.”

The human rights activists say the cluster munitions were dropped over northern Saada governorate, a Houthi rebel stronghold near Saudi Arabia. The satellite map shows the target area in the mountains above the villages of al-Ssam and al-Safraa.

About 5,000 people live in al-Safraa in times of peace, HRW said.