UK investigating cluster bomb claim in Yemen – BBC News

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Cluster bombImage copyright
Human Rights Watch

The UK government is investigating claims that British-made cluster bombs have been used by the Saudi-led coalition in the conflict in Yemen.

Amnesty International said it had documented the use of the weapons, manufactured in the 1970s.

Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond told MPs there was no evidence Saudi Arabia had used cluster bombs, and Britain had received assurances from the Saudis.

Mr Hammond added that it was illegal to supply such weapons under British law.

He said: “The MoD is now urgently investigating the allegations that have been made.”

Mr Hammond said the weapons described in Amnesty’s report were decades old.

Answering an Urgent Question, in the Commons, defence minister Philip Dunne said the UK last delivered cluster bombs to Saudi Arabia in 1989 and no longer supplied, manufactured or supported them.

He added there had been several conflicts in that region in the past decade so it was not clear the evidence found had come from the current fighting.

‘Nasty weapon’

Amnesty has written to Prime Minister David Cameron calling for a government inquiry into the allegations.

The human rights group claims it found a partially-exploded UK-manufactured BL-755 cluster bomb during field research near the Yemeni-Saudi border.

Amnesty International UK arms control director Oliver Sprague said: “Cluster bombs are one of the nastiest weapons in the history of warfare, rightly banned by more than 100 countries, so it’s truly shocking that a British cluster munition has been dropped on a civilian area in Yemen.

“The UK should have been tracking down all the now-banned cluster bombs it’s sold to Saudi Arabia over the years and pressing for them to be safely disposed of. Instead, shamefully, it’s now come to light that a UK cluster bomb has been used in Yemen, spraying its deadly bomblets all over a village and jeopardising the lives of men, women and children.

“There needs to be a full investigation into both this incident and all aspects of the UK’s arming of Saudi Arabia and other countries involved in the carnage in Yemen.”

Cluster bombs explained

  • The Convention on Cluster Munitions prohibits all use, stockpiling, production and transfer of cluster bombs
  • The convention has 108 signatories and became binding international law in 2010
  • Cluster bombs pose particular risks to civilians because they release many small bomblets over a wide area
  • During attacks, they are prone to indiscriminate effects especially in populated areas
  • Unexploded bomblets can kill or maim civilians long after a conflict has ended, and are costly to locate and remove

Source: United Nations Office for Disarmament Affairs

A Saudi-led coalition of Arab air forces began carrying out airstrikes against Houthi rebels in Yemen last year.

The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights estimates that at least 3,200 civilians have been killed and 5,700 wounded, with 60% of the casualties caused by airstrikes, in that time.

The conflict between President Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi’s UN-recognised government and the rebels began in September 2014.

UK investigating cluster bomb claim in Yemen – BBC News