If Saudi Arabia used banned UK-made cluster bombs in Yemen, aren’t the Tories guilty of war crimes?

A boy walks on the rubble of houses destroyed by Saudi-led airstrikes in Khamis Bani-Saad, Yemen [Image: Abduljabbar Zeyad/Reuters].

The United Kingdom has signed the international Convention on Cluster Munitions (CCM) – so its sale of cluster bombs to Saudi Arabia is a war crime, it seems.

The Convention obliges signatories  “never under any circumstances to”:

(a) Use cluster munitions;
(b) Develop, produce, otherwise acquire, stockpile, retain or transfer to anyone, directly or indirectly, cluster munitions;
(c) Assist, encourage or induce anyone to engage in any activity prohibited to a State Party under this Convention.

In the UK it was ratified in May 2010 and came into force in November 2010 – under the Tory-led Coalition government.

But that same government – and the Tory-only government that succeeded it in May 2015 – has been selling arms to Saudi Arabia, not only until the Convention came into force but right up to today.

We don’t know when the bombs were sold, but the Convention bans the UK from helping anyone to use cluster bombs – including states that have not signed the convention.

So – while Saudi Arabia cannot be prosecuted for using the bombs, the UK may be accused of war crimes for keeping them, supplying them, and allowing them to be used.

And the Conservative Party is responsible.

This seems clear. Do you agree?

Saudi Arabia has finally admitted that it used UK-manufactured cluster bombs against Houthi rebels in Yemen, increasing pressure on the British government which has repeatedly refused to curb arms sales to Riyadh.

Saudi Arabia said it would cease to use UK-manufactured cluster bombs and that it had informed the UK government of this decision.

Ahmed Asiri, a spokesman for the Saudi-led coalition fighting in Yemen, said: “It has become apparent that there was limited use by the coalition of the UK-manufactured BL755 cluster munition in Yemen.”

The decision to stop using the cluster bombs follows an internal Saudi investigation conducted in discussion with the UK. Saudi officials said it had only been completed last week.

The admission came in advance of a statement by Britain’s defence secretary, Michael Fallon, admitting that UK-supplied cluster bombs had been used by Saudi Arabian-led forces. Fallon told the House of Commons that a “limited number” of BL755 cluster munitions exported from the UK in the 1980s had been dropped by the Arab coalition.

While the UK had stopped manufacturing cluster bombs in 1989 and signed up to a convention in 2008 not to use them, neither Saudi Arabia nor the US has signed the convention. Since the UK is an ally of both, and the convention says signatories should not aid or abet countries using them, the legal position is unclear.

Source: Saudi Arabia admits it used UK-made cluster bombs in Yemen | World news | The Guardian

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10 thoughts on “If Saudi Arabia used banned UK-made cluster bombs in Yemen, aren’t the Tories guilty of war crimes?

  1. Jt Zoonie

    Of corse they are just like in Syria and else where. We are an evil country the way we attacked saddam for no real reason. So he abused his people. But the conservative government has abused disabled people. They have systematically screwed the underprivileged and people who have nothing. Been reports on it too. Selling weapons is why may was at Saudi.

  2. Ghulam Muhammed

    It would seem, the Tories have their own private definition of war crimes. As long as western arms and ammunition are used to kill Muslims anywhere in the world, they don’t considere it War Crime. They killed millions in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Syria and now Yemen, Sunni or Shia, makes no difference, as long as the targeted call themselves Muslim. Against Jihad, they have revived crusades without Muslims realising it, even after millions are most brutally slaughtered.

  3. Dai

    The problem with this we could be complicit in common law due to taxes.

    If you supply your neighbour with a baseball bat with 4″ nails and he caused a incidence, you may be culpable.

  4. Marty

    Depends how old the weapons are, Mike. If they’re over seven years old Labour would have been in power when they got sold to the Saudis. Maybe Labour under Blair or Brown were the war criminals you mention.

    1. Mike Sivier Post author

      No, not Labour, because the UK had not joined the convention at that time.
      The relevant part is the stipulation that signatories may not “assist, encourage or induce anyone” to use those weapons. As the Tories still sell to Saudi Arabia, there’s a clear element of help.

      1. Paul

        So you reckon it was OK for Labour to sell cluster bombs to dodgy regimes before the country signed an agreement not to? That seems a very precarious argument to make, Mike.

      2. Mike Sivier Post author

        That is not a logical argument to make, Paul.
        It was not illegal for Labour to sell the cluster bombs. That doesn’t mean it was OK, or that I would think it was.
        In any case, the cluster bombs in question were sold by the Tories.

  5. Barry Davies

    Untill the date of the sales has been clarified it would be premature to claim we would be guilty of war crimes because of their employ by a non aligned, in the specific agreement of usage, nation.

    1. Mike Sivier Post author

      Read the article again. If the Tories have helped any country to use such weapons, in any way, then they are in breach of the Convention.

  6. Roland Laycock

    The tories only think of money and don’t care a toss about people, If it was any other country apart from the US or EU they would be pumping it out on the TV and telling you how nasty they they are

Comments are closed.