[JURIST] UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon [official profile] on Friday warned [statement] that the use of cluster bombs by a Saudi-led coalition against neighborhoods in Yemen may amount to a war crime. Cluster bombs spread bomblets over a wide area, many of which do not immediately explode, allowing the bomblets to kill or maim civilians long after a conflict ends. They were prohibited by the 2008 Convention on Cluster Munitions treaty [text, PDF] adopted by 116 countries, not including Saudi Arabia, Yemen or the US. Of particular concern, the coalition has utilized indiscriminate bombing on several civilian areas in the city of Sanaa, including a wedding hall, chamber of commerce and a center for the blind. In a field visit the UN confirmed use of these munitions, finding remnants of 29 cluster bombs.
This is not the first time the Saudi-led coalition has been accused of using cluster munitions, as Human Rights Watch [advocacy website] announced [JURIST report] the use of such bombing in May. In an attempt to mitigate the conflict between the Saudi-backed Yemen government and the Iran-backed Houthi rebels, the UN had inserted a human-rights representative. Yemen subsequently ousted [JURIST report] the UN representative, alleging biased reporting. The UN announced [JURIST report] earlier in January that the ongoing conflict is responsible for 8,119 civilian casualties, including 2,795 dead and 5,324 wounded.