Last Updated: 23 August 2014

Cluster Munition Ban Policy


The Federative Republic of Brazil has not acceded to the Convention on Cluster Munitions.

Brazil made no policy statements on the matter in 2013 and the first half of 2014. In September 2013, a government representative informed the CMC that Brazil has nothing to say publicly on its position on accession to the Convention on Cluster Munitions.[1]

Brazil has long objected to the non-traditional diplomatic process that brought about the Convention on Cluster Munitions, which, in its view, did not balance legitimate defense needs with humanitarian concerns.[2] During the Oslo Process that created the convention, Brazil maintained that cluster munitions were effective militarily and said the most appropriate way to address cluster munitions was through existing international humanitarian law and the Convention on Conventional Weapons (CCW).[3] Brazil supported an effort to conclude a CCW protocol regulating cluster munitions that failed in 2011, effectively ending CCW deliberations on the weapons and leaving the Convention on Cluster Munitions as the sole multilateral instrument to specifically address cluster munitions.

There has been no further progress on draft legislation (Bill 3228/2012) to ban cluster munitions that was introduced by Congressional Deputy Rubens Bueno, leader of the Socialist People's Party (Partido Popular Socialista, Brazil) on 15 February 2012.[4] Other draft legislation to ban cluster munitions, introduced by Congressional Deputy Fernando Gabeira in the Chamber of Deputies in 2009, was removed from consideration after he left office at the end of 2010.[5]

Brazil participated minimally in the Oslo Process that produced the Convention on Cluster Munitions and did not attend the formal negotiations in Dublin in May 2008.[6] It has criticized two provisions in the convention: the provision that excludes from the ban munitions that contain submunitions but may not have the same negative humanitarian effects as cluster munitions, and the provision designed to facilitate “interoperability” (joint military operations with states not party).[7]

Brazil has participated in some work of the Convention on Cluster Munitions, mainly by attending intersessional meetings of the convention in Geneva, including those held in April 2014. Brazil has attended one annual Meeting of States Parties of the convention as an observer, the Second Meeting of States Parties in Beirut, Lebanon in September 2011. It was invited to, but did not attend, the convention’s Fourth Meeting of States Parties in Lusaka, Zambia in September 2013.

Brazil has not made a national statement on the Syrian government’s use of cluster munitions, but it voted in favor of UN General Assembly Resolution 68/182 on 18 December 2013, which expressed “outrage” at Syria’s “continued widespread and systematic gross violations of human rights…including those involving the use of…cluster munitions.”[8]

Brazil is a State Party to the Mine Ban Treaty. It is also party to the CCW.

In June and July 2014, CMC members participated in an advocacy initiative held during the World Cup football tournament that aimed to encourage Brazil to stop its production and export of cluster bombs and join the Convention on Cluster Munitions.[9]

Use, production, transfer, and stockpiling

Brazil has stated several times that it has never used cluster munitions.[10] It produces, exports, and stockpiles cluster munitions.

In 2010, the Ministry of Defense stated that national military doctrine prohibits the use of cluster munitions in urban areas, 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. It also asserted that Brazil needs to retain its cluster munition production capacity at current levels in order to support local defense manufacturing capacity.[11]

At least three companies have produced cluster munitions in Brazil, according to the companies’ own materials and to standard reference works: Avribrás Aeroespacial SA, Ares Aeroespacial e Defesa Ltda, and Target Engenharia et Comércio Ltda.

Avribrás Aeroespacial SA has produced the ASTROS family of surface-to-surface rockets with submunition warheads.[12] These weapons have been exported to Iran, Iraq, and Saudi Arabia.[13] Brazil also 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.[14] The ASTROS multiple launch rocket system was used by Saudi Arabian forces against Iraqi forces during the battle of Khafji in January 1991, leaving behind significant numbers of unexploded submunitions.[15]

Ares Aeroespacial e Defesa Ltda has produced the FZ-100 70mm air-to-surface rockets, similar to the Hydra M261 multipurpose submunitions.[16] 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.[17]

In July 2012, a major newspaper reported that Brazil had sold cluster bombs to Zimbabwe a decade earlier.[18]

In 2011, Deputy Gabeira said the government had refused “as a matter of security” to respond to his request for a list of the countries where Brazil has exported cluster munitions.[19]


[1] CMC meeting with Ambassador Ana Maria Moreleni, Embassy of Brazil in Zambia, Lusaka, 12 September 2013.

[2] For example, statement of Brazil, CCW Group of Governmental Experts on Cluster Munitions, Geneva, 7 November 2008. Notes by Landmine Action.

[3] Statement of Brazil, Latin American Regional Conference on Cluster Munitions, San José, 5 September 2007. Notes by Human Rights Watch (HRW).

[4] The bill was referred to committee for further consideration. Chamber of Deputies, Proposition PL-3228/2012.

[5] Chamber of Deputies, Proposition PL-4590/2009.

[6] For more details on Brazil’s policy and practice regarding cluster munitions through early 2009, see Human Rights Watch and Landmine Action, Banning Cluster Munitions: Government Policy and Practice (Ottawa: Mines Action Canada, May 2009), pp. 191–193.

[7] Statement by Santiago Irazabal Mourão, Director, Disarmament and Sensitive Technologies, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 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.

[8]Situation of human rights in the Syrian Arab Republic,” UNGA Resolution 68/182, 18 December 2013.

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

[11] 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.

[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. The majority of the world has already rejected a prohibition based on failure rates as it cannot safeguard against the humanitarian impact of these weapons.” Letter from the CMC to Nelson Jobim, Minister of Defense, 17 May 2010.

[13] Terry J. Gander and Charles Q. Cutshaw, eds., Jane’s Ammunition Handbook 20012002 (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.

[14] 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.

[15] 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 dual-purpose improved conventional munition (DPICM) bomblets from ASTROS rockets, names withheld, in Geneva, 2001–2003.

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

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

[18] 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 and 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.

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