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Brazil

Last Updated: 22 October 2010

Cluster Munition Ban Policy

Policy

The Federative Republic of Brazil has not acceded to the Convention on Cluster Munitions. Brazil has asserted the military utility of cluster munitions, and insisted they are needed as a deterrent.[1] It has objected to the non-traditional diplomatic process that brought about the convention. It has said that the convention and the process did not balance legitimate defense needs with humanitarian concerns.[2] 

However, Brazil’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Celso Amorim has called cluster munitions an inhumane weapon that should be eliminated.[3] In December 2008, he said the government was reconsidering its position and may sign the convention in the future “for humanitarian reasons.”[4] He also expressed concerns about the convention, including that Brazil did not agree with the convention’s definition of a cluster munition as it opened the possibility of production of cluster munitions by other states and was thus discriminatory.[5]

On 3 February 2009, Congressional Deputy Fernando Gabeira (PV-RJ) introduced Bill 4590/09 in the Chamber of Deputies to ban the use, production, import, and export of cluster munitions.[6]  As of August 2010, the draft law was being considered by the Committee on Foreign Affairs and National Defense, which held a public hearing on 4 May 2010.[7]

Brazil did not engage in the work of the convention in 2009 or 2010 through July. It was invited to, but did not attend, the Berlin Conference on the Destruction of Cluster Munitions in June 2009, the Regional Conference for Latin America and the Caribbean on Cluster Munitions in Santiago, Chile in September 2009, or the International Conference on the Convention on Cluster Munitions, also held in Santiago, in June 2010.

Brazil participated minimally in the Oslo Process that produced the convention in 2007 and 2008. It did not attend the formal negotiations in Dublin in May 2008, even as an observer.[8] During the Oslo Process, Brazil maintained that cluster munitions were effective militarily and that existing international humanitarian law and the Convention on Conventional Weapons (CCW), specifically CCW Protocol V on explosive remnants of war, were the most appropriate way to address cluster munitions.[9] 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).[10]

Brazil is a party to the CCW, but has not yet ratified CCW Protocol V on explosive remnants of war. Brazil participated in the CCW deliberations on cluster munitions in 2009 and 2010 through July. It made statements critical of the Convention on Cluster Munitions and countries that have joined it.[11] At an April 2009 CCW session, Brazil lauded the “enormous” progress made in the CCW and claimed that “almost the entirety of cluster munitions” are not covered by the Convention on Cluster Munitions.[12] Brazil has said that it is willing to ban some cluster munitions that do not have certain technical features, as long as there is a transition period before the ban takes effect.[13]

In mid-May 2010, the CMC held a week of action to convince Brazil to sign the Convention on Cluster Munitions.[14] Throughout 2009 and the first half of 2010, the Brazil Campaign to Ban Landmines and Cluster Bombs worked to encourage Brazil’s signature to the convention, including through collaboration with Members of Congress, engagement with government officials, and a petition-collection drive and other awareness-building activities.[15]

Brazil is a State Party to the Mine Ban Treaty.

Use, production, transfer, and stockpiling

Brazil has stated several times that it has never used cluster munitions.[16] It produces, exports, and stockpiles cluster munitions. 

At the May 2010 hearing on cluster munitions in the Chamber of Deputies, the Ministry of Defense stated that national military doctrine prohibits the use of cluster munitions in urban areas. It also stated that Brazil’s stockpiles of cluster munitions are limited. The cluster bombs held by the Air Force should be destroyed soon because they are out of date. It also asserted that that Brazil needs to retain its cluster munition production capacity at current levels in order to support local defense manufacturing capacity.[17]

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. At the hearing in May 2010, a representative from Avibrás said that the company generates US$60–70 million per year from cluster munitions and claimed that cluster bombs produced by Avibrás have a failure rate of less than 1%.[18]

These weapons have been exported to Iran, Iraq, and Saudi Arabia.[19] 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.[20]

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.[21]

The company Ares Aeroespacial e Defesa Ltda has produced the FZ-100 70mm air-to-surface rockets, akin to the Hydra M261 multipurpose submunitions.[22] 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.[23]

In a May 2010 letter to the Minister of Defense, the CMC wrote, “There are a number of positive steps Brazil could take as it considers joining the Convention. Most notably, Brazil could clarify if any production of cluster munitions is ongoing and it could put in place a moratorium on use, production and transfer…. As a confidence-building measure, Brazil should provide complete information on its stockpile of cluster munitions.”[24]



[1] Statement by Marcelo Mário de Holanda Coutinho, Director, Department of International Bureau of Policy, Strategy and International Affairs, 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, Coordinator, Brazil Campaign to Ban Landmines and Cluster Bombs, 13 August 2010.   

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

[3] The minister said this in June 2008 to a meeting of the Committee on Foreign Affairs and National Defense of the Chamber of Deputies. Mylena Fiori, “Brasil poderá aderir a acordo para acabar com produção de bombas cluster” (“Brazil may join the agreement to end production of cluster bombs”), 17 June 2008, www.agenciabrasil.gov.br. He said it again in December 2008 at the time of the Convention on Cluster Munitions Signing Conference in Oslo. “Brazil not to sign treaty banning cluster bombs,” Xinhua, 4 December 2008, news.xinhuanet.com.

[4] “Brazil not to sign treaty banning cluster bombs,” Xinhua, 4 December 2008, news.xinhuanet.com.

[5] Ibid. See also, Denise Chrispim Marin, “Brasil rejeita tratado para banir bombas de cachom” (“Brazil rejects treaty to ban cluster bombs”), estado.com.br, 3 December 2008, www.estadao.com.br.

[6] Chamber of Deputies, Proposition PL-4590/2009, www.camara.gov.br. See also, Rodrigo Bittar,Projeto proíbe fabricação e uso de bombas de fragmentação” (“Project prohibits the manufacture and use of cluster bombs”), Agência Câmara, 27 February 2009, www.direitos.org.br.

[7] Email from Gustavo Oliveira Vieira, Brazil Campaign to Ban Landmines and Cluster Bombs, 13 August 2010. See also, Hearing, Committee on Foreign Affairs and National Defense of the Chamber of Deputies, Brasilia, 4 May 2010. Landmine and Cluster Munition Monitor has a Portuguese transcript of the hearing.

[8] 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.

[9] Statement of Brazil, Latin American Regional Conference on Cluster Munitions, San José, 5 September 2007. Notes by HRW.

[10] 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.   

[11] For example, at the April 2010 session, Brazil said governments that have joined the Convention on Cluster Munitions have “enshrined that Convention in an entrenched camp of righteousness.” Statement of Brazil, CCW GGE on Cluster Munitions, Geneva, 16 April 2010. Notes by AOAV.

[12] Statement of Brazil, CCW GGE on Cluster Munitions, Geneva, 17 April 2009. Notes by Landmine Action.

[13] See for example, Statement of Brazil, CCW GGE on Cluster Munitions, Geneva, 16 April 2009, notes by Landmine Action; and statement of Brazil, CCW GGE on Cluster Munitions, Geneva, 13 April 2010, notes by AOAV.

[14] CMC, “Countdown to Entry into Force–Week 4: Brazil,” www.stopclustermunitions.org.

[15] See www.controledearmas.org.

[16] Statement of Brazil, CCW GGE on Cluster Munitions, Geneva, 8 April 2008, notes by Landmine Action; statement of Brazil, CCW GGE on Cluster Munitions, Geneva, 16 February 2009, notes by Landmine Action;  and statement of Brazil, CCW GGE on Cluster Munitions, Geneva, 14 April 2009, notes by Landmine Action.

[17] 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.   

[18] Statement by José de Sá Carvalho, Jr, “Commercial Director - Brazil and Americas,” Avribras 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 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.

[19] 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, www.time.com.

[20] Submission of the Federative Republic of Brazil, UN Register of Conventional Arms, 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.

[21] Human Rights Watch 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 dud dual purpose bomblets from ASTROS rockets, names withheld, Geneva, 2001–2003.

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

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

[24] Letter from the CMC, to Nelson Jobim, Minister of Defense, 17 May 2010.