A US arms multinational with a factory in Scotland has been linked to an alleged war crime in Yemen via a code found on a bomb fragment.
A new report by Human Rights Watch (HRW) says that smart bombs with laser guidance systems made in Scotland have been fired at civilian areas in the war-torn nation.
Fragments of a missile found after it was dropped on a building where 52 people worked in Yemen’s capital, Sanaa, reveal the bomb was made by Raytheon, an American multinational employing some 600 people in Glenrothes, Fife.
HRW’s new report documents 13 attacks that killed 130 civilians describing them as “war crimes”, the latest allegations against a Saudi-led coalition accused of targeting civilian areas and killing children.
Some 6000 people – more than half civilians – have been killed since March 2015 when war broke out in Yemen between Houthi rebels and forces loyal to President Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi.
The fighting has resulted in a humanitarian catastrophe affecting millions of people with at least 934 children killed and another 1356 injured, according to Unicef.
Britain has backed a coalition of Arab nations led by Saudi Arabia to support the Yemeni regime but is facing a judicial review of its arms sales to the Saudis over claims of atrocities.
But the coalition has been accused of numerous war crimes resulting in huge pressure on the UK Government to suspend arms sales to Saudi Arabia.
HRW’s latest report – Bombing Businesses – says that a chambers of commerce was bombed in the Hassaba neighborhood of Sanaa on 5th January this year.
Two guards were in the building at the time of the attack, one of whom was injured and employees told Human Rights Watch that there was no Houthi military presence in the immediate area.
Human Rights Watch said remnants of the missile revealed it was a “Mk-82 500-lb bomb with a UK-manufactured Paveway laser guidance kit”.
The report added: “Markings on the fragments show that Raytheon produced the bomb in the United Kingdom, at the Pinnacle Hill Industrial Estate in Kelso, Scotland.”
A code – 15090-2271709-3 MFR U07GO – engraved on the bomb fragment reveals it was made by Raytheon and a sub-contractor called Border Precision, a firm that was based in Kelso before it closed down last summer.
Mark Hiznay of Human Rights Watch said: “15090 is a CAGE code for Raytheon, so Border Precision was a subcontractor. The second line is U07G0, which is a Commercial and Governmental Entity code, essentially a manufactures code. Putting the CAGE code through government procurement sites that CAGE code is for Border Precision Engineering Limited.
Another Paveway IV missile produced in the UK in May 2015, was dropped on warehouses in an industrial area near Hodaida on 6th January this year, according to HRW.
The report said that markings on the wing assembly “indicated that Raytheon in the UK manufactured the bomb in May 2015, after the start of the war”.
Last year Raytheon said it had moved all of its UK weapons manufacturing to its Glenrothes plant in Scotland.This report provides compelling evidence that bombs made in Scotland are being used against civilian targets in YemenClick To Tweet
HRW said: This report documents coalition airstrikes between March 2015 and February 2016 on 13 civilian economic structures including factories, commercial warehouses, a farm, and two power stations. These strikes killed 130 civilians and injured 171 more.”
“The facilities hit by airstrikes produced, stored, or distributed goods for the civilian population including food, medicine, and electricity—items that even before the war were in short supply in Yemen, which is among the poorest countries in the Middle East.”
“Collectively, the facilities employed over 2,500 people; following the attacks, many of the factories ended their production and hundreds of workers lost their livelihoods.”
“Each of these attacks appeared to be in violation of international humanitarian law, or the laws of war. The laws of war prohibit deliberate attacks on civilian objects, attacks that do not discriminate between military targets and civilian objects, and attacks that disproportionately harm civilian objects compared to the expected military gain of the attack.
“Civilian objects include factories, warehouses and other commercial enterprises so long as they are not being used for military purposes or become a military objective. Those attacks on civilian objects that were committed willfully – deliberately or recklessly – are war crimes.”
Andrew Smith of Campaign Against Arms Trade said: “This report provides compelling evidence that bombs made in Scotland are being used against civilian targets in Yemen. The destruction has been immoral, and there is a growing international consensus that it has also been illegal.
“If the new Government in Whitehall cares about the human rights of Yemeni people then it must take some responsibility for what is being done with UK arms and stop arming and supporting the Saudi regime.”
Douglas Chapman MP, a SNP member of the Committee of Arms Exports Controls at Westminster, said: “The recently announced plans for a judicial review and the withdrawal of answers to parliamentary questions and statements on Yemen shows that the UK Government knows it is on very shakey ground indeed.”
“The long awaited report from the Committees on Arms Exports Controls has taken evidence from a range of NGO’s including Amnesty International, who have all suggested that, as regards Yemen, the UK is in breach of the Arms Trade Treaty.
“Whatever the recommendations from the committee report, the U.K. government should be instructing an independent review of arms sales and the effect on humanitarian law when all the evidence points to a serious breach of an internationally recognised treaty.”
Raytheon declined to comment but the firm has previously stated that is a significant contributor to the economy in Scotland by employing more than 600 people in Glenrothes and through exporting £500m of advanced systems and technologies since 2002.
A Foreign Office spokeswoman said: “We take all allegations of breaches of International Humanitarian Law (IHL) very seriously. Where it is alleged that IHL has been breached, it is important that all sides conduct thorough and conclusive investigations into all incidents.
“We regularly raise the importance of compliance with International Humanitarian Law with the Saudi Arabian Government and other members of the military Coalition.”
“The MoD monitors individual incidents of alleged IHL violations using all information available to us, which in turn informs our analysis of Saudi Arabia’s IHL compliance in Yemen.”
“The key test for our continued arms exports to Saudi Arabia in relation to IHL is whether there is a clear risk that those weapons might be used in a serious violation of IHL. Having regard to all the information available to us, we assess that this test has not been met.”
“We continue to monitor the situation closely in the light of all information available to us, and welcome any further information NGOs can provide.”
In March, remnants of an MK-84 bomb paired with a Paveway laser guidance kit were discovered by Human Rights Watch staff investigating an airstrike on a market in Mastaba that killed at least 97 civilians.
The UN Panel of Experts on Yemen has documented 119 coalition sorties relating to war violations.
A shaky ceasefire that took effect in April is now under threat in Yemen.
Yemen’s dominant Houthi group and its allies said last week they would establish a governing council to run the country, in a move the UN said threatens peace talks in Kuwait.
Senior officials in President Hadi’s government said the move undermined diplomatic efforts to end the devastating civil war.
A version of this story was published by the Sunday Mail on 31st July 2016.