Campaigners fear that missiles produced by a US arms multinational based in Scotland are being used by Saudi Arabia against civilians in Yemen.
Raytheon is one of the world’s largest arms companies and its factory in Glenrothes, Fife, produces laser guided systems for Paveway IV missiles.
Britain has supplied Paveway IV missiles to Saudi Arabia which has been bombing Houthi rebels in Yemen in a forgotten war that’s resulted in the deaths of around 2000 civilians.
Saudi Arabia and other Arab states have bombed the Houthis since the end of March to try and reinstate Yemen’s President Abd-Rabbu Mansour who was ousted by the rebel group.
The Saudi-led coalition is backed by the UK and the USA and the Saudis have a fleet of British and American-made fighter jets including F15s, Tornados and Eurofighter Typhoons.
But there are allegations that Saudi warplanes have targeted civilian areas wreaking carnage and Amnesty International has called for war crime investigations.
The Arms Trade Treaty, which came into force in December 2014, prohibits the sale of weapons where there is a clear risk they could be used for war crimes.
Last year Raytheon announced it had won its first international contract for Paveway IV missiles, a deal worth £130m.
The contract was the first sale of Paveway IV bombs outside the UK although no more details of the deal were released.
Raytheon said then it would deliver hundreds of the bombs to its secret new buyer.
The firm has been supplying the Royal Air Force with Paveway bombs since 2008.
The Ministry of Defence has since admitted that it supplied Saudi Arabia with Paveway IV bombs that were originally earmarked for the RAF.
This information was revealed when the MoD responded to a written House of Lords question asking about the help Britain had given the Saudis against Houthi rebels.
“We are not participating directly in Saudi-led military operations in Yemen, but we are providing technical support, precision-guided weapons and exchanging information with the Saudi Arabian armed forces through pre-existing arrangements,” the MoD said in its response on July 14.
The Royal United Services Institute (RUSI) – a UK defence and security think tank – told The Ferret that Paveway IV missiles were being used by the Saudis in Yemen.
Michael Stephens, of RUSI said: “We (the UK) had Paveway IV missiles that were designed for our own planes but we sent them to the Saudis instead. The Paveway IV is a primary weapon for the Typhoon. UK aircraft and munitions have been used and the Saudis are not denying that .”
A series of reports by BBC’s Newsnight last week revealed mounting concerns that the bombing campaign has destroyed civilian homes and factories.
In a report last month Amnesty International said it had investigated eight airstrikes by the Saudi-led coalition which killed at least 141 civilians and injured 101 others, mostly women and children, during a research mission to Yemen in June and July 2015.
Amnesty said the evidence revealed a pattern of air strikes targeting heavily populated areas including civilian homes, a school, a market and a mosque.
The report said that in the majority of cases no military target was nearby.
One resident spoke to Amnesty about an attack on a residential compound in Mokha on 24 July and said that “corpses and heads” were scattered everywhere “engulfed by fire and ashes”, comparing the sight to a scene from “judgement day”.
Another person said he was haunted by the memories of walking through the “pools of blood and severed limbs” of more than 20 victims.
Indiscriminate attacks that result in death or injury to civilians amount to war crimes. Donatella Rovera, Amnesty International
Donatella Rovera, senior crisis response advisor at Amnesty International, said: “Coalition forces have blatantly failed to take necessary precautions to minimize civilian casualties, an obligation under international humanitarian law. Indiscriminate attacks that result in death or injury to civilians amount to war crimes .”
Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT) said Saudi Arabia is the largest buyer of UK weapons and the British government had licensed more than £3.8bn worth of arms sales to the regime.
Andrew Smith, of CAAT, said: “War and conflict on the other side of the world can often feel distant and remote, but the Saudi regime is getting armed by companies all over Scotland and the UK. It has unleashed a humanitarian catastrophe on the people of Yemen and these arms companies are complicit in it. There must be an embargo on all arms sales to Saudi Arabia and an end to government support for what is one of the most authoritarian and repressive regimes in the world.”
The UN said that since the coalition began its bombing campaign in Yemen on 26 March, at least 1,950 civilians have been killed and 4,271 wounded in air strikes and fighting.
A spokesman for Raytheon said: “Raytheon is a significant contributor to the economy through employing nearly 600 people in Glenrothes and through exporting £500m of advanced systems and technologies since 2002. The company has world leading capability in cutting edge micro electronics, which is driving efficiencies in commercial aviation and automotive markets, as well as others which have the potential to deliver great economic benefits.”
The Saudi Arabian Embassy in London declined to comment.
Read the full Amnesty International report on the Yemen crisis
A version of this story was published by the Sunday Mail on 13th September 2015.