British Defense Secretary Sir Michael Fallon today announced, and Saudi Arabia formally confirmed, that the Saudi military has been dropping British-made cluster munitions on Yemen over the course of their 20 month war in Yemen.
Saudi Arabia has heavily relied on US-made munitions for the war in Yemen, but has also been buying from Britain throughout the conflict, during which Saudi airstrikes have killed massive numbers of civilian bystanders. The opposition Scottish National Party (SNP) slammed the news as a “shameful stain” on UK foreign policy.
Sir Michael downplayed the incident, insisting the Saudis had assured them they only dropped the cluster bombs on “legitimate” targets so no legal violations had occurred. Britain, however, is s signatory to the international ban on cluster bombs, and this would at the very least be a violation of Britain’s obligations under that treaty.
Saudi Arabia insists that they only used a “limited number” of British cluster bombs that they bought back before the ban, and have promised to stop using British-made cluster munitions for the duration of the war. Reports have suggested the US provided substantial numbers of cluster bombs to Saudi Arabia as well, which means the bomblets will continue to fall.
A number of British MPs, both in the government and the opposition, were critical of the government’s attitude toward the incident, and some urged Britain to commit to helping clear Yemeni villages of cluster munitions after the Saudi war ends.