British-made cluster bombs have been dropped on Yemen

Published December 20th, 2016 - 10:17 GMT
British-made cluster bombs have been used in Yemen (Wikimedia Commons)
British-made cluster bombs have been used in Yemen (Wikimedia Commons)

They may be prohibited under an international treaty, but Britain yesterday admitted that it has sold cluster bombs to Saudi Arabia.

Speaking in parliament on Monday, the country’s defense secretary said that a "limited number" of BL-755 cluster munitions, manufactured in Britain in the 1980s have been used in Yemen. Manufacture of the weapons in the UK was suspended in 1989.

A spokesman for the Saudi-led coalition conducting airstrikes against Houthi rebels in Yemen also indicated that: “It has become apparent that there was limited use by the coalition of the UK-manufactured BL755 cluster munition in Yemen.”

Britain has repeatedly refused calls to suspend arms sales to Saudi Arabia, denying claims that the Gulf state has been using British weapons in contravention of international law against civilians in Yemen.

Saudi Arabia has now assured London that it will cease to use the British-bought cluster weapons.

However, the UK government has given no indication that it will halt its arms sales to its Saudi allies, whose campaign in defense of the exiled Yemeni president Abdrabbuh Hadi since March 2015 they support, along with America.

It was announced last week that the US will curtail arms sales to Saudi Arabia after criticism around civilian deaths. The UK has made £3.3 billion in weapons exports to Saudi since the start of the fighting.

In Britain, the admission has been met with anger:

Thousands of Yemenis have died in the conflict, including many civilians. According to Save the Children, 18 million people in the country are now in critical need of aid, with over seven million children facing starvation.

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