Wallonia faces new challenge to arms sales used by Saudi Arabia in Yemen
Wednesday, 10 February 2021
Boxes of hand grenades seized in Yemen from the Saudi National Guard.
The government of the Walloon region appears ready to sell new arms to Saudi Arabia, despite new proof that the arms are being used in the kingdom’s illegal war in Yemen, an NGO has alleged.
Saudi Arabia has been involved in the civil war in Yemen since 2015, backing the Yemeni regime in its fighting against the Houthi minority rebels.
In taking part in that conflict, Saudi Arabia is in breach of international law and the rules of war, and according to the arms decree of the Walloon government itself, arms exports may not be approved to any country involved in breaking international law or violations of human rights.
For that reason, the Council of State in 2019 annulled three export licences issued by the Walloon regional government of Elio Di Rupo. The government argued in court that the weapons were only intended for units of the Royal Guard and National Guard, which are only active within the kingdom itself.
That argument was countered by an investigation by Knack, Le Soir and the VRT, which showed that arms from Belgium’s biggest arms factory, FN Herstal, had been used in Yemen.
Now a new investigation by the NGO Vredesactie claims to be able to prove without a doubt that FN weapons have been used in Yemen.
Specifically, in the Wadi Aal Abo Jubarah, known in English as the Jabara valley, where Houthi rebels clashed with Saudi troops in August and September 2019.
Based on hours of video posted online by the rebels and studied by Vredesactie, the NGO has accumulated massive evidence of the use in Yemen of FN weapons, including many captured and displayed by the rebels themselves.
“On these videos we could identify a wide range of Belgian weapons and ammunition used at the Saudi outposts in Yemeni territory, as well as by Saudi soldiers participating in the offensive by the Saudi National Guard,” Vredesactie reports on its website.
“Several of the ammunition boxes clearly indicate the Saudi National Guard as destination. The presence of LAVs, a type of armoured vehicle only used by the Saudi National Guard, in the Saudi offensive and near the outposts proves that this military force is actively engaged in military operations inside Yemen.”
A SCAR-L assault rifle manufactured by FN Herstal and captured in Yemen
The images used by Vredesactie date from before the rulings by the Council of State, but they provide proof that weapons sold to Saudi Arabia, ostensibly for use only by the National Guard, are indeed being used in the war in Yemen.
Since the Council of State, however, Walloon minister-president Elio Di Rupo asked his advisory committee for a new opinion on the trade. The committee clearly rejected the evidence then available and issued a positive advice on resuming the trade.
“The Walloon government wants to continue to pursue an illegal weapons policy at all costs,” said Hans Lammerant, researcher at Vredesactie.
The NGO has announced it will again challenge the new export licenses before the Council of State.