Last Updated: 12 August 2014

Cluster Munition Ban Policy


Libya has not acceded to the Convention on Cluster Munitions.

Libya is not believed to be taking any immediate steps to accede to the convention. Previously, in September 2012, it informed States Parties that Libya is “committed” to promoting the Convention on Cluster Munitions and making it universal.[1] The Monitor is not aware of any statements with respect to the Convention on Cluster Munitions by the General National Congress that has governed Libya since July 2012.[2]

Under the former government of Muammar Gaddafi, Libya participated in three regional conferences held during the 2007–2008 Oslo Process that developed the Convention on Cluster Munitions, but attended the formal negotiations in Dublin in May 2008 only as an observer and did not join in the consensus adoption of the convention.[3] Libya did not attend the Oslo Signing Conference in December 2008.

Libya participated as an observer in the convention’s Meeting of States Parties in 2010, 2012, and the Fourth Meeting of States Parties in Lusaka, Zambia in September 2013. Libya attended the convention’s intersessional meetings in Geneva once, in April 2013. Libya participated in a regional conference on cluster munitions in Pretoria, South Africa in 2010 and in Lomé, Togo in 2013.

Libya has voted in favor of recent UN General Assembly (UNGA) resolutions condemning the Syrian government’s use of cluster munitions, including 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.”[4]

Libya is not party to the Mine Ban Treaty.

Handicap International (HI) hosted a two-day training on the Mine Ban Treaty and Convention on Cluster Munitions for interested Libyan civil society organizations in Tripoli in May 2013.[5]

Libya is not a party to the Convention on Conventional Weapons

Production, transfer, and stockpiling

Libya is not known to have produced or exported cluster munitions.

The former Libyan regime possessed a stockpile of cluster munitions. The current disposition of this stockpile is not known, including information about the types, quantities, and degree of central government control.

In the past, Jane’s Information Group listed Libya as possessing KMGU dispensers (which deploy submunitions) and RBK-500 aerial cluster bombs, presumably of Soviet/Russian origin.[6] It also possesses Grad 122mm surface-to-surface rocket launchers, but it is not known if the ammunition for these weapons includes versions with submunition payloads.[7] From the 2011 conflict, it is now also known that Libya had stockpiled RBK 250-PTAB-2.5M cluster bombs, MAT-120 mortar bombs containing submunitions, and an unidentified type of rocket-delivered cluster munition with dual-purpose improved conventional munition (DPICM) submunitions.

In June 2011, Spain confirmed that it had transferred a total of 1,055 MAT-120 cluster munitions containing 22,155 submunitions to Libya in 2006 and 2008.[8]


During the 2011 conflict, government forces loyal to Muammar Gaddafi used three different types of cluster munitions at locations including Ajabiya, Misrata, and in the Nafusa Mountains near Jadu and Zintan.[9] DPICM-type submunitions were also ejected from ammunition storage bunkers at a military depot near the town of Mizdah, which was attacked by NATO aircraft 56 times between April and July 2011.[10]

There has been no evidence of cluster munition use in Libya by countries that were involved in the NATO military action, including by the United States (US) and other states that have not yet joined the Convention on Cluster Munitions. In its formal response to the UN Commission of Inquiry on Libya, NATO confirmed that it did not use cluster munitions in the Libya operation.[11]

Previously, Libyan forces used air-delivered cluster munitions, likely RBK-series cluster bombs of Soviet/Russian origin containing AO-1SCh and PTAB-2.5 submunitions, at various locations during its intervention in Chad during the 1986–1987 conflict.[12]

On 25 March 1986, US Navy aircraft attacked Libyan ships using Mk20 Rockeye cluster bombs; on the night of 14–15 April 1986, US Navy aircraft dropped 60 Rockeye bombs on the airfield at Benina.[13] On 27 November 2009, a commercial oil company survey crew in Libya found remnants of a German World War II-era “butterfly bomb” (an early version of a cluster bomb) and an explosive ordnance disposal expert subsequently identified six more such cluster munition remnants.[14]


[1] Statement of Libya, Convention on Cluster Munitions Third Meeting of States Parties, Oslo, 12 September 2012. Notes by the CMC.

[2] Libya signed the Arms Trade Treaty on 9 July 2013.

[3] At the Livingstone Conference on Cluster Munitions in April 2008, Libya endorsed the Livingstone Declaration, which called on African states to support the negotiation of a “total and immediate” prohibition on cluster munitions. At the Kampala Conference on the Convention on Cluster Munitions in September 2008, Libya endorsed the Kampala Action Plan, which called on all African states to sign and ratify the convention as soon as possible. For more details on Libya’s cluster munition policy and practice up to early 2009, see Human Rights Watch and Landmine Action, Banning Cluster Munitions: Government Policy and Practice (Ottawa: Mines Action Canada, May 2009), pp. 220–221.

[4]Situation of human rights in the Syrian Arab Republic,” UNGA Resolution A/RES/68/182, 18 December 2013. Libya voted in favor of a similar resolution on 15 May 2013.

[6] Robert Hewson, ed., Jane’s Air-Launched Weapons, Issue 44 (Surrey, UK: Jane’s Information Group Limited, 2004), p. 842.

[7] International Institute for Strategic Studies, The Military Balance 2011 (London: Routledge, 2011), p. 320. Libya has demonstrated that it possesses at least one type of 122mm rocket. Human Rights Watch (HRW) and The New York Times also documented the use by government forces of Type-84A scatterable antivehicle mines (made in China) delivered by 122mm rockets into the port area of Misrata on the night of 14–15 April 2011.

[8] The transfer took place before Spain instituted a moratorium on export of cluster munitions and prior to its adoption of the Convention on Cluster Munitions. Statement of Spain, Convention on Cluster Munitions Intersessional Meetings, Geneva, 29 June 2011. In the statement, Spain confirmed information provided to the New York Times by the Deputy Director General for Foreign Trade of Defense Materials and Dual Use Goods, Ramon Muro Martinez, that: “One license to Lybia [sic] consisting of 5 cluster munitions for demonstration was issued in August 2006. The export took place in October 2006. There were two more licenses issued in December 2007 with a total amount of 1,050 cluster munitions. They were sent in March 2008.” C.J. Chivers, “Following Up, Part 2. Down the Rabbit Hole: Arms Exports and Qaddafi’s Cluster Bombs,” The New York Times – At War Blog, 22 June 2011.

[9] See ICBL-CMC, “Country Profile: Libya: Cluster Munition Ban Policy,” 17 December 2012.

[10] Statement of HRW, Convention on Conventional Weapons Protocol V on Explosive Remnants of War, Geneva, 25 April 2012.

[11] NATO letter to the UN Commission of Inquiry on Libya, 15 February 2011. Cited in UN Office of the High Commissioner on Human Rights, “Report of the International Commission of Inquiry on Libya,” A /HRC/19/68, 2 March 2012, p. 168, Para 638.

[12] Handicap International, Circle of Impact: The Fatal Footprint of Cluster Munitions on People and Communities (Brussels: HI, May 2007), p. 48.

[13] Daniel P. Bolger, Americans at War: 1975–1986, An Era of Violent Peace (Novato, CA.: Presidio Press, 1988), p. 423.

[14] Daily report by Jan-Ole Robertz, Explosive Ordnance Disposal Technical Advisor, Countermine Libya, 27 November 2009.