Ministry of Defence (MoD) denials regarding banned, British-supplied cluster munitions found in Yemen are little more than a “smokescreen of wildly implausible claims,” according to Amnesty International.
The human rights charity wrote to the MoD after defence minister Philip Dunne told parliament a UK-made BL-755 bomb found in a village in Yemen had not been dropped by the Saudi coalition.
Responding to an urgent parliamentary question, both Dunne and Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond suggested the banned munition, which may have been bought as long ago as the 1970s, was dropped in an earlier conflict.
Dunne argued: “It is unclear from the evidence provided thus far that the munitions came from the current conflict.
“We assess that no UK-supplied cluster weapons have been used.”
Amnesty, which carried out inspections in the area and first exposed the presence of the cluster bombs, rejected the claims.
It said there had been no wars involving airstrikes in the region and that metadata showed that the weapons had been dropped on around January 18 or 19, 2016.
Amnesty UK’s head of policy and government affairs Allan Hogarth said: “It’s shocking that the Saudi coalition has dropped a British cluster bomb on villagers in Yemen, and no less shocking that ministers are doing so little about it.
“Instead of immediately halting all sales of arms to a Saudi coalition that obviously cares little for civilian life in Yemen, ministers have hidden behind a smokescreen of wildly implausible claims.”
Hogarth branded the minister’s behavior “disgraceful” and a “scandal.”
“It all goes back to the fact that UK government just won’t stop selling arms to Saudi Arabia and other rich countries in the Gulf," Hogarth said.
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