Saudi Arabia is using weapons and arms technology in the civil war in Yemen, despite assurances given by the Walloon regional government when export licences were granted.
Yemen is currently in the midst of an armed civil conflict after a 2017 Saudi-led coup against the government. A Saudi blockade of the country has led to famine, and the spread of a cholera outbreak that has now affected more than one million people.
On issuing export licences for the arms deliveries from Mecar, a company based in Nivelles and FN Herstal, based in Herstal in Liege province, the Walloon government received assurances the weapons were intended only for internal use by the Saudi national guard.
However according to an investigation by the NGO #BelgianArms, together with media organisation Lighthouse Reports, researchers Bellingcat, the VRT, Knack magazine and Le Soir newspaper, it has been revealed that the Saudis have deployed the weapons and technology in the conflict in Yemen.
The consortium, using sources including publicly-available data, government documents and social media, found two videos dating from 2016 and 2017 which show Saudi national guard forces bombarding positions of Yemeni rebels using tanks equipped with Belgian-made cannon, and munitions produced exclusively by Mecar. Saudi Arabia spent 160 million euros on Belgian munitions between 2015 and 2017.
The group also found evidence of the use of FN F2000 automatic weapons, produced solely in Belgium, and sold through the US subsidiary of FN Herstal under contract to the US Department of Defense to supply friendly regimes.
The Walloon government issued export licences for sales to Saudi Arabia on condition the weapons and munitions were for internal use only, with minister-president Willy Borsus last year giving an assurance that the arms would “in absolutely no circumstances be used in military operations outside Saudi Arabia”.
#BelgianArms also reports that despite an embargo by Wallonia on new export licences to Saudi Arabia following the murder last year of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, arms are still being exported under licences issued before last October. The group saw records from the port of Antwerp which show at least three weapons transports taking place from Belgium to Saudi Arabia since that date.