Exclusive footage of alleged war crime in Yemen

Footage of an alleged war crime in Yemen involving a UK made bomb has been obtained by The Ferret.

The mobile phone footage taken on the 10th of January this year shows an airstrike on a college in the capital city, Sana’a.

The short clip shows an explosion in a built-up area before a huge mushroom cloud of smoke rises into the sky.

The incident was filmed by a security guard who gave it to Mwatana, a Yemeni human rights organisation.

Mwatana has submitted its evidence of the airstrike to Westminster’s Committees on Arms Export Controls (CAEC) which is investigating the use of UK arms in Yemen’s war.

CAEC is due to publish a report next week and is reportedly going to call for a suspension of arms sales to Saudi Arabia.

The conflict is between forces loyal to ousted President Abd Rabbo Mansour Hadi, led by Saudi Arabia, and Houthi rebels backed by Iran.

Nearly three million people have been forced to flee their homes and almost eight million people are suffering from malnutrition.

The Saudi-led coalition has used UK-made warplanes dropping smart bombs with laser guidance systems produced by US arms firm Raytheon at its factory in Fife.

But allegations that civilians have died after being targeted by the coalition has brought huge pressure on the UK Government to suspend arms sales to Saudi Arabia.

CAEC began investigating in March following claims the UK was in breach of the Arms Trade Treaty and is due to publish its report shortly.

The treaty sets international standards for the arms trade and was signed by the UK.

Governments who sign up must review arms export deals to ensure weapons are not used for war crimes.

In its evidence to CAEC Mwatana said UK-made bombs were used by the coalition when civilian areas were targeted.

The human rights group said: “Mwatana investigated two air strikes carried out by the Arab Coalition led by Saudi Arabia on 8th and 10th of January 2016 which targeted the Community College in Quhaza village, Bilad Arroos District, about 32 kilometers south of Sana’a city.”

Mwatana visited the site on 18th of February 2016 and interviewed Ali Hadi al-Muzalim, 33 years old, a guard at the compound.

Al-Muzalim told Mwatana: “On Friday, 8th of January, around 2pm I was in the administration building, and heard three air strikes targeted the compound. Later I left the compound and made a basic shelter around 50 meters away from the compound.

“On Sunday, 10th of January 2016, around 6 pm, again two air strikes hit the compound and I filmed the former with my mobile.”

According to al-Muzalim the compound was not used by the military and the nearest weapons depot was around 10 miles north. No-one was injured.

Mwatana also submitted evidence found after an incident on 23rd September 2015 when a ceramics factory was bombed in Sana’a with one person killed.

They said: “Mwatana confirmed that the Arab Coalition led by Saudi Arabia has used UK-manufactured bombs to entirely destroy one of the biggest civilian industrial facilities in Sana’a, northern Yemen. According to research by Mwatana, one of the attacks on civilian facilities was the bombing of Ceramica Radfan Factory, in Matnah area, Bani Matar District, about 30 kilometers west of Sana’a city.

“During its field visit to the destroyed factory on Wednesday 7th of October, 2015, Mwatana’ team documented remnants of the bombs used in the shelling which arms experts found later that they are remnants of (Paveway Laser) or (Laser and GPS) bomb (GEC Marconi Dynamics Company).”

Mwatana added that remnants of bombs found at the college matched those found at the Ceramica Radfan Factory, indicating they were also made by GEC Marconi.

Experts said the bomb was a PGM-500 Hakim produced in the United Kingdom for the United Arab Emirates (UAE) by GEC-Marconi Dynamics in the 1990s.

GEC-Marconi Dynamics is now part of MBD Missile Systems.

MBDA declined to comment.

A Foreign Office spokeswoman said: “We are aware of reports of alleged violations of International Humanitarian Law by actors in the conflict and take these very seriously. It is important that all sides conduct thorough and conclusive investigations into all incidents where it is alleged that IHL has been breached.

“We regularly raise the importance of compliance with International Humanitarian Law with the Saudi Arabian Government and other members of the military Coalition. Saudi Arabia has publicly stated that it is investigating reports of alleged violations of IHL, and that lessons will be acted upon.

“We continue to monitor the situation closely, and welcome any further information NGOs can provide.”

Andrew Smith of Campaign Against Arms Trade said: “The humanitarian crisis in Yemen is getting even worse. The situation for people in Yemen is intolerable, and lives are being torn apart. The evidence of UK arms being used against civilians is overwhelming , yet ministers in Whitehall are pulling out all stops to support the Saudi regime.

“If the UK government wants to help the desperate situation then it must cease all arms sales to Saudi Arabia and call for an independent investigation into the legality of the bombardment. The UK has fueled the destruction, now it needs to do all it can to end it.”

In March Mwtana published a report called Blind Air Strikes documenting 44 airstrikes it believed to be unlawful.

The report said these air strikes had killed at least 615 civilians including 120 women and 220 children. Another 678 people were injured.

Earlier this year the UN said there had been 119 “clear violations” of international law by the coalition raising questions over the legality of UK arms sales to Saudi Arabia.

Refugee camps, schools, hospitals and markets had been targeted by airstrikes as well as weddings, the UN said.

Last year the British government approved more than £3bn worth of arms sales to the Saudis.

We revealed last month that a code on a bomb fragment linked Raytheon and another Scots firm to an alleged war crime.

The SNP, Scottish Greens, Lib-Dems, Campaign Against Arms Trade, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have all called for a suspension of arms sales to the Saudis.

The UK Government is facing a judicial review into arms sales to the Saudis and MPs have been investigating the issue.

This week, MP’s at Westminster questioned Tory MP Tobias Ellwood, under secretary of state at the Foreign Office, over the UK’s arming of Saudi Arabia and mounting allegations of war crimes.

Ellwood defended arms sales to Saudi Arabia and apologised to the Commons for inaccurate answers given by ministers.

They said the government had assessed that the Saudis had not breached international humanitarian law in Yemen.

He said the error, acknowledged just before the summer parliamentary recess in July, was not part of a plot to mislead of MPs.

Alison Thewliss MP, of the SNP, spoke at Westminster and raised the issue of Yemeni refugees in the UK. She said: “It beggars belief that the Foreign Office are aware of the awful humanitarian crisis in the Yemen, yet the Home Office – in their characteristically obtuse manner – still have their heads in the sand.

“The most recent Home Office statistics show that they’ve rejected asylum claims from thirteen Yemeni asylum seekers.  Where exactly do they expect them to go if they don’t want to give them refugee status?  Are they seriously suggesting they should return to Yemen which is quite literally a war zone?

“Equally as bad is the fact that the Home Office have kicked another fifty-seven asylum applications into the long grass with no decision.  These people urgently need certainty; people are lying awake at night worrying whether they will be forced to return to a country suffering brutal conflict and severe humanitarian disaster.

“Ministers need to show some humanity and grant Yemeni citizens status in the UK, not leave them in fear of being returned to a war zone”.

 Meanwhile, the UN said last week week that 10,000 people have been killed since the war started, nearly double previous estimates of a death toll of around 6000.

The new figure was based on information from hospitals in Yemen, the UN said, adding the total might rise while describing the situation as “tragic”.

Cover photo by By David Monniaux (Own work) , via Wikimedia Commons

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