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Last Updated: 17 December 2012

Cluster Munition Ban Policy

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

It is not known if Brazil is reviewing its policy on cluster munitions following the 2011 failure of the Convention on Conventional Weapons (CCW) to agree to a protocol regulating cluster munitions.

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.[1] 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 CCW.[2]

On 15 February 2012, Congressional Deputy Rubens Bueno (PPS-PR) introduced draft legislation (Bill 3228/2012) to ban the production, use, storage, and sale of cluster munitions.[3] The bill was referred for consideration by the Committee on Foreign Affairs and National Defense. Deputy Bueno, the leader of the Socialist People's Party (Partido Popular Socialista, Brazil), has called on Brazil to join the Convention on Cluster Munitions because the weapons are “so totally inhumane and cruel.”[4] In 2012, Deputy Bueno introduced a separate amendment to exclude cluster munitions from a new law that created tax incentives for investments in conventional weapons (MP 544/2011), but the proposal was rejected when the law was voted upon on 14 February 2012.[5]

Previously, in February 2009, draft legislation to ban cluster munitions was introduced by Congressional Deputy Fernando Gabeira (PV-RJ) in the Chamber of Deputies and later removed from consideration after Gabeira left congress at the end of 2010.[6]

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, even as an observer.[7] Brazil 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).[8]

Brazil did not engage in the work of the Convention on Cluster Munitions in 2009 or 2010. It attended the convention’s Second Meeting of States Parties in Beirut, Lebanon in September 2011 an observer, but did not make any statements. Brazil did not participate in intersessional meetings of the convention in Geneva in June 2011 or April 2012.

Brazil is a State Party to the Mine Ban Treaty.

Brazil is a party to the CCW and it was an active participant in CCW deliberations on cluster munitions. At CCW’s Fourth Review Conference in November 2011, Brazil was one of the most active proponents of the conclusion of a protocol based on the chair’s draft text.[9] The Review Conference ended without reaching agreement on the draft protocol, thus concluding the CCW’s work on cluster munitions.

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 May 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 has produced the ASTROS family of surface-to-surface rockets with submunition warheads. 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%.[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]

In March 2011, Deputy Gabeira said the government had refused “as a matter of security” to respond to his request for a list of the countries to which Brazil has exported cluster munitions.[15]

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.[16]

The company Ares Aeroespacial e Defesa Ltda has produced the FZ-100 70mm air-to-surface rockets, akin to the Hydra M261 multipurpose submunitions.[17] Additionally, 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.[18]

In 2010, the CMC urged Brazil to take a number of “positive steps” as it considers joining the convention, including clarifying if any production of cluster munitions is ongoing and putting in place a moratorium on use, production and transfer as well as providing complete information on its stockpile of cluster munitions.[19]


[1] For example, Statement of Brazil, CCW Group of Governmental Experts (GGE) on Cluster Munitions, Geneva, 7 November 2008. Notes by Landmine Action.

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

[3] Chamber of Deputies, Proposition PL-3228/2012, www.camara.gov.br/proposicoesWeb/fichadetramitacao?idProposicao=534753.

[4] “PPS try to stymie incentives for the manufacture of cluster bombs,” Politica, 14 February 2012, http://bit.ly/N2VSud.

[5] Statement by Deputy Rubens Bueno, Chamber of Deputies, 14 February 2012, http://bit.ly/L1OwVp. The proposal was supported by two other political parties: the Socialism and Freedom Party (Partido Socialismo e Liberdade, PSOL) and Democratic Labor Party (Partido Democrático Trabalhista, PDT). “PPS seeks veto to encourage the manufacture of cluster munitions, but is defeated,” 14 February 2012, http://www2.camara.leg.br/.

[7] 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.

[8] 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, 13 August 2010.

[9] From the outset of the negotiations, Brazil argued that, “a protocol based on chair’s text would be better than the alternative of having no obligations as it is today.” Statement of Brazil, CCW Fourth Review Conference, Geneva, 14 November 2011, notes by AOAV.

[10] Statement of Brazil, CCW GGE 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 Vieira, Brazil Campaign to Ban Landmines and Cluster Bombs, received 13 August 2010.

[12] 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 Vieira, Brazil Campaign to Ban Landmines and Cluster Bombs, received 13 August 2010. In a letter to the Defense Minister, 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] Media statement by Gabeira Brasil, “Líbia e os outros,” 3 April 2011, www.itamaraty.gov.br.

[16] HRW interviews with former explosive ordnance disposal personnel from a western commercial clearance firm and a Saudi military officer with firsthand experience in clearing the dud dual purpose bomblets from ASTROS rockets, names withheld, Geneva, 2001–2003.

[17] Aeroespacial e Defesa Ltda,Cabeza Cargo de Submuniciones” (“Head charged submunitions”), www.ares.ind.br.

[18] Brazilian Association of the Industries of Defense Materials and Security, “Product List, 2000 to December 2005,” http://www.abimde.org.br/.

[19] Letter from the CMC to Nelson Jobim, 17 May 2010.