UK Politics

UK-made cluster bombs used in Yemen, Michael Fallon confirms

Cluster bombs Image copyright Amnesty International
Image caption Amnesty claims it found these UK-made cluster bombs in Yemen

Cluster bombs made in the UK have been used in the conflict in Yemen, the government has confirmed.

Defence Secretary Michael Fallon said Saudi Arabia had confirmed munitions bought from the UK in the 1980s had been dropped.

Since 2010 it has been illegal under British law to supply the bombs, which put civilians at risk by releasing small bomblets over a wide area.

Labour said it was "deeply worrying" cluster bomb use had been confirmed.

The UK is supporting the Saudi-led coalition which is fighting the Houthi rebel movement in Yemen.

In a statement to MPs, Mr Fallon said the UK had not supplied any cluster bombs to Saudi Arabia since 1989.

But he added that Saudi investigations had concluded that some UK-made cluster bombs had been dropped.

The BL-755 bombs will no longer be used by the coalition, he added.

Cluster bombs explained

  • The Convention on Cluster Munitions prohibits all use, stockpiling, production and transfer of cluster bombs
  • The convention has 108 signatories and became binding international law in 2010
  • Cluster bombs pose particular risks to civilians because they release many small bomblets over a wide area
  • During attacks, they are prone to indiscriminate effects especially in populated areas
  • Unexploded bomblets can kill or maim civilians long after a conflict has ended, and are costly to locate and remove

Source: United Nations Office for Disarmament Affairs

Amnesty International, which says it has documented the use in Yemen of a cluster bomb manufactured in the 1970s, has called on the UK to trace weapons made and sold before the ban.

Earlier the Saudi state news agency reported a coalition spokesman saying cluster bombs were only used against "legitimate military targets".

He added: "It has become apparent that there was limited use by the Coalition of the UK-manufactured BL-755 cluster munition in Yemen.

"This munition was used against legitimate military targets to defend Saudi towns and villages against continuous attacks by Houthi militia, which resulted in Saudi civilian casualties."