Archives For Cluster Munitions Convention

Little is known about the secretive (and now largely outsourced) Spanish cluster bomb industry – until its products turn up in foreign lands.

Spain has signed up to, but not yet implemented into domestic legislation, the Convention on Cluster Munitions. It is time Spain implemented the legislation and also provided full transparency about its past activities, in order to prevent further use of Spanish cluster bombs.

The Spanish government and cluster bombs

The Spanish government ceased issuing any export licences for cluster munitions on 11 June 2008. They declared their stocks of cluster munitions on 2 December 2008 including 2,271 MAT-120s – all of which they have declared to have been destroyed (1852) or retained for training purposes (419).*

Snr Miguel Sebastian, the current industry minister, should make full disclosure as to where all the cluster munitions produced in Spain have gone.

Miguel Sebastian, of course was, earlier in his career, Assistant Director-General of Banco Bilbao Vizcaya (BBV) and Banco Bilbao Vizcaya Argentaria(BBVA).

BBVA has been singled out for criticism by human rights and citizens groups for its human rights record and for its links with the arms industry.

BBVA was also criticised by Pax Christi for having no rules banning it from transactions linked to cluster bombs.

Spanish Industry Minister Miguel Sebastian - previously Assistant Director-General of BBV and BBVA banks. BBVA has been especially active in the arms business and slammed for its links to cluster munition manufacture.

Miguel Sebastian: Spanish Banker and Industry Minister

The Spanish government now needs to confirm:

1) What happened to the machinery for making cluster bombs owned by Instalaza and Expal. Are companies in other countries now making variants of these Spanish bombs?

2) Full details of all exports of all cluster munitions

3) To explain why they made these exports

4) To explain why the information about the recipients of cluster bombs has been covered up in the past

Instalaza

Spanish media reports indicate that Instalaza have denied selling the MAT-120 weapons to Libya. When HRI contacted Instalaza, on a number of occasions, they were surprisingly reluctant to discuss their products.

On top of that, munitions found in Misrata in April 2011, dated 2007 (batches 02/07 and 03/07) look remarkably similar to products from the Instalaza company.

Regarding exports of cluster munions to Libya, the Spanish Export Statistics regarding Defence Material, Other Material and Dual-Use Items and Technologies, 2007 on page 51 in the table of Authorised exports of Defence Material by Country 2007 shows 3 licenses were issued by Spain to a value of 3,823,500 Euros.

On page 53 in the table of Authorised Exports of Defence Material by Country and Article 2007 we see these exports are in category 4, which includes cluster bombs and missiles.

In Spanish Export Statistics regarding Defence Material, Other Material and Dual-Use Items and Technologies, 2008 on page 56 in the table of Exports of Defence Material Completed, 2008 we see actual exports were made valued at 3,839,210 Euros.

Below is an extract from the Spanish National Report on Exports of 2007 showing the way different items are categorised:

DESCRIPTION OF THE 22 ARTICLES FIGURING ON THE LIST OF DEFENCE MATERIAL (ROYAL DECREE 1782/2004 OF 30 JULY

2 Smooth-bore weapons with a calibre of 20 mm or more:
Firearms (including pieces of artillery), rifles, howitzers, cannons, mortars, anti-tank weapons, projectile launchers, flame throwers, recoilless rifles, signature reduction devices, military smoke, gas and pyrotechnic projectors or generators and weapons sights.

3 Ammunition, devices and components
Ammunition for the weapons subject to control by articles 1, 2 or 12. Fusesetting devices including cases, links, bands, power supplies with high operational output, sensors, submunitions

4 Bombs, torpedoes, rockets, missiles
Bombs, torpedoes, grenades, smoke canisters, rockets, mines, missiles, depth charges, demolition charges, “pyrotechnic” devices, cartridges and simulators, smoke grenades, incendiary bombs, missile rocket nozzles and re-entry vehicle nosetips.

These categories, used in the Spanish Report, are in line with those of the Common Military List of the European Union.

Reading the Spanish government reports there is absolutely no mention of supplying cluster munitions to Libya and close analysis of the text even suggests they couldn’t have – so why the cover-up?

Expal Explosivos

Alaveses Explosives, Inc. (EXPAL) is a dedicated solely to military equipment manufacturing sub-munitions and explosives. It produces all sorts of projectiles, fuses, shells and bombs.

As Pere Ortega explains in his article on “The Living Death EXPAL” this company has exported arms to Israel (who infamously fired over a million cluster bomblets into Lebanon), Mauritania and Angola.

EXPAL land mines infest the Western Sahara and Colombia and Saddam Hussein’s mustard gas bombs in the Iran-Iraq war were housed in EXPAL casings.

Anti-mine campaigner

Bombs of EXPAL

The BME 330 AT (anti-tank) bomb is one of a family of three air-launched cluster bombs that was been developed by Expal for use by the Spanish Air Force and for export purposes.

The other two were the BME 330 AR (anti-runway) bomb and the BME 330 C (multipurpose) bomb.

It is unknown where these were sold.

 
This picture shows Spanish made cluster bombs which are dropped from the air – where did these go?

In June 2006, EXPAL appointed as president Francisco Torrente, a former admiral of the Spanish Navy, who only months before had held the post of Secretary General for Defence Policy. Following this move EXPAL contracts with the Ministry of Defense improved remarkably, winning several contracts, including one for the destruction of the 5 600 cluster bombs in possession of the Spanish armed forces, many of which it had produced itself.

EXPAL is part of the EXPAL MaxamCorp, formerly Spanish Union of Explosives (UEE) which comprises six companies in Spain dedicated to the manufacture of all types of explosives. Maxam is a multinational with presence in many countries the current owners including Bank Santander.

EXPAL has signed a partnership agreement with Brazilian explosive and arms company Imbel.

In the story of EXPAL and Instalaza we see the familiar story of close links between the government, banks and the arms industry and the outsourcing of production to states with lower standards of regulation.

*Update 3rd July 2011 based on the text of the letter of the Spanish Foreign Minister Annex II describing numbers and date of cluster bomb stockpiles on 2 December 2011.

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On this page, HRI presents some of the evidence relevant to the use of cluster munitions in Misrata in April 2011.

As more information comes to light, and in response to the requirements of the on-going investigation, this page is updated on a fairly regular basis.

Unlike those who jump to instant conclusions based on propaganda and partial truths,  HRI is sceptical and unbiased – which clearly isn’t popular in some quarters.

For those looking for a 100% definite answer as to who fired the munitions into Misrata, this page will be a bit of a disappointment but more about links between the banks, governments, arms traders and the military is being uncovered on an almost daily basis.

The use of cluster munitions in Misrata

On 15th April 2011, during the day, sub-munitions of a MAT-120 cluster munition were shown to Human Rights Watch (HRW) and C.J. Chivers, a journalist for the New York Times, in Misrata. That evening, during ongoing clashes between rebel and loyalist forces, HRW workers witnessed 3 or 4 cluster munitions landing in residential areas of Misrata. HRW attest to further subsequent such bombings.

Initial Reactions

Civilians were reportedly killed in these attacks and the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, condemned:

“The reported repeated use of cluster munitions and heavy weaponry by Libyan government forces in their attempt to regain control of the besieged city of Misrata.”

She noted that one cluster munition had reportedly exploded a few hundred metres from a hospital in Misrata while another two clinics were apparently hit by mortar or sniper fire.

“Using imprecise weaponry such as cluster munitions, multiple rocket launchers and mortars, and other forms of heavy weaponry, in crowded urban areas will inevitably lead to civilian casualties.”

These attacks were immediately blamed these attacks on the Gaddafi regime and the news has been a front page and first item on the television news around the world.

Here are the relevant HRW and NYT reports:

The Human Rights Watch Report of 15th April on which the Ghaddafi forces fired cluster munitions story has been based.

CJ Chiver’s report on 15th April, ‘Qaddafi Troops Fire Cluster Bombs Into Civilian Areas’

Fred Abrahams on BBC Radio 4 Today Program 16 April 2011

In response to the question of why he assumed the munitions were fired by Libyan rather than NATO forces, Fred Abrahams said,

“Because the MAT-120 is mortar-fired and NATO has no troops on the ground.”

When initially confronted with the information that cluster munitions had been found in Misrata, Hillary Clinton’s reaction was:

“That is worrying information. And it is one of the reasons the fight in Misrata is so difficult, because it’s at close quarters, it’s in amongst urban areas and it poses a lot of challenges to both NATO and to the opposition.”

The MAT-120 cluster munition

The MAT-120 cluster bomb

The MAT-120 can be fired from a number of smoothbore 120mm mortar systems. A 12omm mortar system is a large calibre mortar, operated by a small team and in service with a number of nations.

The systems which can fire the MAT-120  include the NEMO and AMOS systems mounted in a turret.

Here is the AMOS system mounted on a CB-90 in action:

The combination of the AMOS and the Combat Boat 90H has been described as ideal for fire support in urban environments. As Captain Evin H. Thompson, Commander of US Naval Special Warfare Group Four, said in June 2007, in relation to a specific question about US Navy use of the CB90-H and AMOS system (which fires the MAT-120):

“The Amos or something like that – tied into my reduced signature boat gives special operations and our Navy the ability to clandestinely be someplace with the capability to act if circumstances allow.”

Spanish sales of the MAT-120 to Libya.

Spanish media reports indicate that Instalaza have denied selling these weapons to Libya.

The Spanish Industry Minister, Miguel Sebastian (himself linked to a bank who have financed US cluster munition manufacture), has so far failed to meet the HRI request to release details of all exports of cluster munitions.

The Spanish government  needs to confirm exactly what happened to all stocks of MAT-120 produced, where the machinery for making the MAT-120 has ended up, where the MAT-120 was exported to and where they have been stored.

As far as official exports go, a lot hangs on whether the MAT-120 is regarded as a category 3 munition (ML3) – in which case, of the countries to which category 3 exports were officially made in 2007 and 2008, only the USA has not signed the Convention against Cluster Munitions and is involved in the conflict in Libya – or if it is categorised as a Category 4 munition (ML4) in which case the USA, Qatar and Libya fit the bill. According to Nicholas Marsh of NISAT, who is an expert in these matters, “There is a blurred division between weapon categories, and especially ML3 and ML4.”

If exports of the MAT-120 were made to Libya, it has to be explained why, who made the decision, how many were sent there, at what time, of which batches and where else these munitions went.

There is additional detail on this in the section on Spanish bombs.

The United States leadership fully approve of cluster munitions

Although Spain has apparently gone to extraordinary effort to try and clear the USA of any involvement in the use of cluster munitions in Misrata, the USA has refused to sign the Convention on Cluster Munitions and these weapons are an important part of their arsenal with the USA possessing a large stockpile of cluster munitions.

US Defence Secretary Robert Gates has said cluster munitions are regarded by the US as:

“Legitimate weapons with clear military utility.”

As Richard Kidd, Director of the Office of Weapons Removal and Abatement, U.S. Department of State, wrote in “Is There a Strategy for Responsible U.S. Engagement on Cluster Munitions?” April 28, 2008:

“Cluster munitions are available for use by every combat aircraft in the U.S. inventory, they are integral to every Army or Marine maneuver element and in some cases constitute up to 50 percent of tactical indirect fire support.”

Yet, incredibly, the alleged war crime of bombing Misrata is also being used by US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and other authorities to justify an escalation of the conflict in Libya.

The US government position in favour of the use of cluster munitions, their widespread possession by US forces and the weakening of the Convention on Cluster Munitions to accommodate nations fighting in coalition with US forces,  implicates the US government in the use of cluster munitions anywhere in the world.

The Battle for Misrata

As part of the investigation, HRI is looking into both land and naval forces  involved in the Misrata operation, as the specific units involved, operating at night, who made use of the cluster munitions is not yet clear.

There is no doubt that this was fierce urban warfare, with hundreds killed in the battle and NATO, including US Naval forces, about which HRI has written, were deeply involved.

On the 14th of April, NATO Secretary-General Rasmussen confirmed that Admiral Stavridis had briefed foreign ministers that Gadaffi’s forces were now in populated areas and that “to avoid civilian casualties we need very sophisticated equipment.”

Certainly coalition forces were providing fire support and (allegedly) special services support to the rebels in order to secure the town for the rebels and establish a major foothold in western Libya.

Our update on the bombing of Misrata shows that on the eve of the Royal Wedding, NATO admitted to using “certain weapons” within the city of Misrata and some more detail on this has been provided by the RAF.

So it is quite clear that coalition forces were deeply involved in the bombing of Misrata, using deadly force in a civilian area, contrary to the spirit of UN Resolution 1973.

Human Rights Investigations calls for:

1). A full investigation by the United Nations into the use of munitions (including cluster munitions and DU weapons), particularly in urban areas.

2) For all parties in the Libyan conflict to confirm they will not use cluster munitions in the current conflict and to pledge to sign up to the Convention on Cluster Munitions.

3). Suspension of military personnel found to be involved pending investigation for war crimes.

4). An end to the ‘information war’ and military distortion of the public debate.

5). An end to the ongoing bombing of Libya which is against the spirit and intent of UN Resolution 1973 which was intended to protect civilians, not justify bombing of civilian areas.

Analysis of official Spanish government documents indicates Spanish company Instalaza may not have exported the MAT-120 cluster weapon to Libya in 2007/08.

In the 2008 report, Libya is listed as a recipient of category 4 munitions (which include bombs) – this is the source of the reports that Libya was provided with the MAT-120 by Spain.

However, the MAT-120 appears not to be a category 4 munition (bomb), but a category 3 one (ammunition for mortar).

Below is an extract from the Spanish National Report on Exports of 2007 showing the way different items are categorised:
 
DESCRIPTION OF THE 22 ARTICLES FIGURING ON THE LIST OF DEFENCE MATERIAL (ROYAL DECREE 1782/2004 OF 30 JULY)

2 Smooth-bore weapons with a calibre of 20 mm or more:
Firearms (including pieces of artillery), rifles, howitzers, cannons, mortars, anti-tank weapons, projectile launchers, flame throwers, recoilless rifles, signature reduction devices, military smoke, gas and pyrotechnic projectors or generators and weapons sights.

3 Ammunition, devices and components
Ammunition for the weapons subject to control by articles 1, 2 or 12. Fusesetting devices including cases, links, bands, power supplies with high operational output, sensors, submunitions

4 Bombs, torpedoes, rockets, missiles
Bombs, torpedoes, grenades, smoke canisters, rockets, mines, missiles, depth charges, demolition charges, “pyrotechnic” devices, cartridges and simulators, smoke grenades, incendiary bombs, missile rocket nozzles and re-entry vehicle nosetips.

These categories, used in the Spanish Report, are in line with those of the Common Military List of the European Union:

What does this mean?
This information appears to undermine the contention that the MAT-120, the mortar fired ammunition found in Misrata, was exported to Libya from Spain. In fact, if this reading of the Report is correct, Libya could not have been supplied with the MAT-120.

Of the countries to which category 3 exports were actually made in 2007 and 2008 only the following countries have not signed the Convention against Cluster Munitions:

Andorra, Egypt, India, Indonesia, Israel, Poland, Singapore, Switzerland, Thailand and the USA.

This information links in to the HRI investigation into who really cluster bombed Misrata.