A United Nations panel of experts has uncovered fragments of British-made laser guidance missile systems at an air raid site in Yemen in a strike that it concluded breached international humanitarian law.
The attacks took place in September 2016, a month after the then foreign secretary Boris Johnson said he was content to allow the export of weapons systems to Saudi Arabia in the expectation they would be used in Yemen.
A guidance unit for a “high explosive” bomb – stamped with the name of a Brighton based company, EDO MBM Technology Ltd – were found at the site in the Yemen capital Sana’a after four bombs were dropped on the site at 12.45am on 13 September. Missile parts from the same British factory – ultimately owned by the US arms supplier L3 Harris – were also found by the UN experts at the Alsonidar complex following a second air strike nine days later, where a water pump factory and a former tube maker were located.
At the time, a spokesman for the Saudi-led coalition said that warplanes had hit the Alsonidar plant because it “is now becoming a military manufacturing unit specialised in producing pipes Houthis use to assemble local-made missiles.”
But the panel concluded “there is insufficient evidence to demonstrate that the factory complex had become a legitimate military objective” because there was no evidence that any hardware was manufactured on the site. The tube maker on the site had not been operational since 2014
The UN documentation demonstrates that British technology has been deployed in a conflict where the Saudi-led coalition has been repeatedly accused of indiscriminate bombing.
Dr Anna Stavrianakis, a senior lecturer in international relations at the University of Sussex, said, “...This revelation is a damning indictment of a policy that is reckless in its disregard for civilian harm.”