The UK government has ‘blood on its hands’, after discovery of ‘vile and indiscriminate’ weapon

Ed Sykes

The British government has just been slammed by the human rights organisation Amnesty International for its connection to war crimes in Yemen.

Amnesty says one of its research teams recently discovered “a UK-manufactured cluster bomb” in Yemen – a weapon the organisation calls “vile and indiscriminate”. These bombs have been banned under international law since 2008.

The British-made BL-755 bomb, Amnesty explains, “opens mid-air to scatter 147 smaller explosive bomblets across a wide area”. These bomblets then eject molten metal upon detonation, before exploding “into more than 2,000 fragments killing and maiming all in the vicinity”.

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At least two children are known to have been killed by cluster bombs dropped by Saudi-led forces in Yemen.

The human rights group went on to say:

The UK government has Yemeni blood on its hands. Tell the Prime Minister to investigate immediately and stop selling arms to Saudi Arabia – it’s illegal, immoral and inhumane.

It has also launched a petition calling on the British Prime Minister to:

  • Ensure the Saudi-led coalition destroys all its UK cluster munitions.
  • Stop the coalition from receiving British arms that could be used in Yemen.
  • Launch an inquiry to find out how UK cluster bombs were used in Yemen.

The British government and cluster bombs

Before the Conservative party came to power, the UK led the way in the fight against cluster bomb usage, working to destroy its own stockpile and even ordering the US to remove any such arms being held on British soil. But in 2011, reports emerged that the party was supporting a US-led campaign to legalise the use of cluster bombs.

A Foreign and Commonwealth Office spokesperson responded to Amnesty’s cluster bomb revelations on 22 May, saying:

The UK is not a member of the Saudi-led Coalition. British personnel are not involved in carrying out strikes, directing or conducting operations in Yemen or selecting targets and are not involved in the Saudi targeting decision-making process.

A very indiscriminate war

A Saudi-led coalition of Arab states launched an air campaign in Yemen in March 2015 with the aim of defeating Iranian-backed Houthi militias who had overthrown Yemeni President Abdu Mansour Hadi in 2014. The airstrikes have regularly targeted populated areas, showing disregard for civilian lives.

Around 3,000 civilians are thought to have been killed so far in the bombing campaign. According to Unicef, this may include as many as 10 children a day.

Such death and destruction in Yemen has already fuelled the growth of groups like al-Qaida and, in the absence of a negotiated settlement, this trend looks set to continue.

UK complicity in Saudi war crimes

After the recent revelations, Amnesty has argued that:

The UK is fuelling the deadly conflict in Yemen through reckless arms sales to the Saudi Arabia-led coalition – these sales break UK laws and the global Arms Trade Treaty

And indeed, since David Cameron came to power in 2010, the government has licensed almost £7bn of arms sales to Saudi Arabia. In fact, official statistics show that, between July and September 2015, Britain sold the Saudi regime over £1bn-worth of bombs. This in spite of the ideological link between Saudi Arabia and Daesh (Isis/Isil), and the suggestions that the group actually began as “a Saudi project”.

There is now absolutely no doubt that UK-made arms have been used to destroy civilian targets during the Saudi-led campaign in Yemen. And British military officials have even been present in the command centre for the airstrikes, gaining access to the Saudis’ list of targets.

A negotiated political settlement in Yemen is only likely to come about as a result of strong international pressure being placed upon Saudi Arabia. The continued silence of the British government only encourages impunity for Saudi war crimes and moves Yemen further away from a resolution. This, in turn, will only bring more death, destruction and chaos to the region.

Get involved!

See more from The Canary on the Saudi-led war in Yemen.

– Sign the Amnesty petition.

– Write to David Cameron to ask why there is so much British support for Saudi war crimes in Yemen.

Demand that your MP takes a stand on the issue.

Support the Canary so we can keep holding the government to account for its actions.

Featured image via Ibrahem Qasim

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