Focusing more sharply on Textron, a new Human Rights Watch report calls on the United States government and the Rhode Island-based conglomerate to stop selling cluster bombs. The report offers fresh evidence the Textron-made weapons – banned by 119 nations but not by the US – were used by Saudi Arabian forces in Yemen, injured civilians and malfunction more frequently than US trade law allows.
“The United States should cease its production and transfer of cluster munitions to conform with the widely accepted international ban on the weapons,” says the HRW report. Textron spokesman David Sylvestre declined to comment.
Textron-made cluster bombs injured a woman and two children in December, 2015 and two civilians in April, 2015, according to the report. HRW documents six separate locations where unexploded cluster bombs were found, most recently in February of this year.
The report also contains new proof that Textron-made cluster bombs malfunction more often than US trade law allows. US export law prohibits the use of cluster bombs in populated areas and only allows the sale of cluster bombs that malfunction less than 1 percent of the time, a rate HRW says Textron’s cluster bombs have not complied with.
“Following multiple attacks in Yemen, it is now obvious that Sensor Fuzed Weapons are not the ‘reliable’ or ‘intelligent’ cluster munitions they have been promoted as,” said Steve Goose, arms director at Human Rights Watch and chair of the Cluster Munition Coalition, the international coalition working to eradicate cluster munitions. “The US should cease production and transfer of these weapons following the evidence of their failures and their use in and near civilian areas and should join the international ban on cluster munitions.”
RI Future reporting on Textron and Rhode Island grassroots activism targeting Textron is cited in the HRW report.
In an RI Future article on February 24, 2016, a Textron spokesperson, David Sylvestre, asserted that the company cannot be held liable if the weapons are misused, reportedly stating: “We’re not in the plane dropping the bomb. If it was dropped in an area that is perhaps too close to a civilian population, that is not supposed to happen.” The report said that he affirmed that CBU-105 Sensor Fuzed Weapons are provided to the US military for delivery to foreign recipients, stating: “No company can put that on a boat and deliver it to a foreign government.”
Sylvestre described the CBU-105 Sensor Fuzed Weapons as “intelligent” munitions and said: “They are not intended to target human beings at all…. They are made to target armored-vehicles.” None of the CBU-105 attacks documented by Human Rights Watch in Yemen have involved armored vehicles nor have any damaged or destroyed armored vehicles been documented at the strike locations.
During an April 19 demonstration at Textron’s corporate headquarters in Providence, Rhode Island, Textron representatives apparently refused to receive a petition signed by more than 3,000 people calling on the company to cease its production of cluster munitions. Two days later, Rhode Island police arrested three activists who chained themselves to Textron’s front doors during a protest against the company’s production of cluster munitions.
Megan Burke, the director of the Cluster Munitions Coalition who participated in the April 19 demonstration outside of Textron headquarters in Providence, said in a news release, “The only way to ensure that no lives or limbs are claimed by cluster munitions in the future is to eliminate those weapons altogether. The United States should stop producing and exporting cluster munitions, and join the Convention.”
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