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Country Reports


The Federative Republic of Brazil has not signed the Convention on Cluster Munitions. It participated minimally in the diplomatic process that resulted in the development, negotiation, and then signing of the convention in December 2008. Brazil produces and stockpiles cluster munitions. Brazil is a State Party to the Convention on Conventional Weapons (CCW), but has not ratified Protocol V on Explosive Remnants of War.

Cluster Munition Ban Policy

In a 2005 statement on the applicability of existing international humanitarian law to the use of cluster munitions, Brazil noted that high altitude aerial bombardment using cluster munitions violates the principle of distinction.[1] It also noted that cluster munition use should be limited depending on “weather conditions and terrain characteristics” and that “cluster bombs or submunition dispensers should not be released or launched from high altitudes” because the wide dispersal pattern is likely to “generat[e] greater risk of unnecessary harm to civilians.”[2]

Despite expressing concern over civilian casualties caused by cluster munitions in Lebanon in 2006—with one official urging a ban on the weapon—Brazil was not supportive of international efforts to ban cluster munitions in the aftermath of the Lebanon conflict.[3] On 25 October 2006, Brazil did not support a proposal during the Third Review Conference of the CCW to establish an open-ended Group of Governmental Experts (GGE) to negotiate a legally-binding instrument that addresses the humanitarian concerns posed by cluster munitions.[4]

Brazil’s first engagement with the Oslo Process came in September 2007, when it sent an observer to the Latin American regional conference in Costa Rica. Brazil said that it was not in a position to support the Oslo Process because it was taking place outside the UN system. It said that negotiations must include all interested actors, and not just take away weapons from those who do not have them. It asserted that cluster munitions are effective militarily and that it is not realistic to pretend that they will be eliminated. It pointed to existing international humanitarian law and CCW Protocol V as the appropriate way to address cluster munitions.[5]

Brazil also attended the international treaty preparatory conference in Wellington in February 2008, but did not contribute to the deliberations and did not endorse the Wellington Declaration, which committed states to participate in the formal negotiations in Dublin in May 2008.[6] Brazil’s opposition to the Oslo Process was widely noted by national media and strongly criticized by NGOs actively supporting the campaign against cluster munitions.[7]

On 3 June 2008, Brazil’s objection to a resolution by the Organization of American States (OAS) that invites member states “to consider becoming parties to the Convention on Cluster Munitions” was cited in a footnote in the resolution.[8]

On 17 June 2008, Brazil’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Celso Amorim, while still expressing concerns about the Convention on Cluster Munitions, said that he considered cluster bombs an inhumane weapon that should be eliminated, and said that Brazil would review its position and in the future may join the convention.[9]

At a CCW meeting in November 2008, Brazil said that the government’s decision not to take part in the Oslo Process and support the Convention on Cluster Munitions was based on its view that the process and convention did not balance legitimate defense needs with humanitarian concerns.[10] Brazil cautioned that “prudence should be exercised before negotiating prohibitions and restrictions on certain conventional weapons outside the CCW, when they could be properly considered under this Convention, which…has stood the test of time with regard to its capacity of evolving and reflecting the ever-changing realities of States Parties. Parallel processes may expedite results, but they do not guarantee universality and effectiveness.”[11]

At a public hearing on cluster munitions held by the Brazilian Congress on 3 December 2008, Minister Amorim again called them an inhumane weapon, and said Brazil is reconsidering its position and may sign the convention in the future “for humanitarian reasons.”[12] However, he also said 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.[13]

In February 2009, legislation was introduced in the Chamber of Deputies to ban the use, production, import, and export of cluster munitions.[14]

Use, Production, Stockpiling, and Transfer

In January 2008, Brazil stated that it has never used cluster munitions.[15]

At least three companies have produced cluster munitions in Brazil, according to the companies’ own materials and to standard reference works. Avribras Aeroespacial SA has produced the ASTROS family of surface-to-surface rockets with submunition warheads. These weapons have been exported to Iran, Iraq, and Saudi Arabia.[16] The ASTROS multiple launch rocket system was used by Saudi forces against Iraqi forces during the battle of Khafji in January 1991, leaving behind significant numbers of unexploded submunitions.[17]

The company Ares Aeroespacial e Defesa Ltda has produced the FZ-100 70mm air-to-surface rockets, akin to the Hydra M261 multipurpose submunitions.[18] 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.[19]

On 28 November 2007, a representative from the Ministry of Defense told a public hearing on cluster munitions that two private Brazilian companies were involved in the manufacturing of cluster munitions: Avribras Aeroespacial SA (producing the Astros rocket system and the BLG-120 and BLG-252 bombs) and Ares Aeroespacial e Defesa Ltda. The defense official noted the economic benefit of the production, stating that another 12 civil industries were involved in production.[20]

[1] Brazil Response, Responses to Document CCW/GGE/X/WG.1/WP.2, IHL and ERW, 8 March 2005, CCW/GGE/XII/WG.1/WP.1, 12 September 2005, p. 2.

[2] Ibid, p. 3.

[3] During the debate at the UN Human Rights Council’s Commission of Inquiry on Lebanon on 1 December 2006, Brazil supported all the recommendations of the commission’s report but gave special attention to cluster munitions during its statement by highlighting and reading aloud the recommendation that “the Human Rights Council should take the initiative to promote urgent action to include cluster munitions to the list of weapons banned under international law.” Statement by Sergio Abrene Lima Florencio, UN Human Rights Council’s Commission of Inquiry on Lebanon, Geneva, 1 December 2006.

[4] The proposal was put forward by Austria, Holy See, Ireland, Mexico, New Zealand and Sweden, and formally supported by 20 other states. Proposal for a Mandate to Negotiate a Legally-Binding Instrument that Addresses the Humanitarian Concerns Posed by Cluster Munitions, Third Review Conference of the States Parties to the CCW, Geneva, CW/CONF.III/WP.1, 25 October 2006.

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

[6] Brazil did not attend the Dublin negotiations, even as an observer. While it did not sign the convention in Oslo in December, it was represented at the conference by its ambassador to Norway.

[7] Active NGOs include the Brazilian Campaign Against Landmines, Instituto Sou da Paz, Associação Vida Brasil, and Grupo de Estudos de Ações Pacifistas (GEAPAC) from the Franciscan University (Santa Maria).

[8] OAS, AG/RES. 2433 (XXXVIII-O/08), “Promotion of and Respect for International Humanitarian Law,” 3 June 2008, www.oas.org.

[9] He made the remarks to the meeting of the National Congress Chamber of Deputies Committee on Foreign Affairs and National Defense. 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.

[10] Statement of Brazil, Fifth 2008 Session of the CCW GGE on Cluster Munitions, Geneva, 7 November 2008. Notes by Landmine Action.

[11] Statement by Amb. Luiz Felipe de Macedo Soares, Permanent Representative of Brazil to the Conference on Disarmament, 2008 Meeting of the States Parties to the CCW, Geneva, 13 November 2008.

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

[13] 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. The statement is available in the audio records of the Chamber of Deputies, www.camara.gov.br.

[14] Email from Cristian Wittman, Brazilian Campaign Against Landmines, 21 February 2009.

[15] Statement of Brazil, Second 2008 Session of the CCW GGE on Cluster Munitions, Geneva, 8 April 2008. Notes by Landmine Action.

[16] Terry J. Gander and Charles Q. Cutshaw, eds., Jane’s Ammunition Handbook 2001–2002, (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.

[17] 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.

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

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

[20] The hearing was convened by the Committee on Foreign Affairs and National Defense of the Chamber of Deputies, Brasilia, 28 November 2007. Notes by the Brazilian Campaign Against Landmines.