Belgian NGO Vredesactie presented new evidence Wednesday that arms produced in the country were being used by Saudi forces in Yemen.
After analyzing video footage, satellite images and photos, the NGO found that weapons manufactured in Belgium’s Wallonia region by arms companies FN Herstal and Mecar were used in the battle of the Jabara Valley in North Yemen in 2019.
The investigation also refuted the Wallonian government’s argument that the Saudi National Guard was only operating in Saudi Arabia and was not involved in foreign military conflicts.
The new evidence challenges the decision of Walloon minister-president Elio di Rupo, who reissued the arms export licenses in November based on the opinion of his advisory committee despite a ruling by Belgium’s highest administrative court.
The court last August suspended arms export licenses to Saudi Arabia, overruling di Rupo’s previous decision to grant permits to several Belgian companies.
“It cannot be excluded that there is a real risk for the weapons[…]to be used in the context of the conflict in Yemen or to contribute to internal repression,” the ruling said.
Di Rupo gave authorization to Wallonia-based FN Herstal and CMI Defence to sell weapons to Saud Arabia’s National Guard and Royal Guard in early July.
Saudi Arabia is the most important client of Wallonia’s arms industry. According to Vredesactie, up to 75% of Belgian arms exports were sold to Saudi Arabia.
Yemen has been beset by violence and chaos since 2014, when Iran-backed Houthi rebels overran much of the country, including the capital, Sana’a, forcing President Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi to flee the country the following year.
The crisis escalated in 2015 when a Saudi-led military coalition launched a devastating air campaign aimed at rolling back Houthi territorial gains.
Tens of thousands of Yemenis including civilians are believed to have been killed in the conflict, which has led to one of the world’s worst humanitarian crises with 3.65 million people internally displaced and 15 million in need of immediate humanitarian aid.
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