A United Nations expert panel has discovered fragments of laser-guided missile systems produced by British brokers on an air strike in Yemen in a strike that concluded it was contrary to international humanitarian law.
The attacks took place in September 2016, a month after the then foreign secretary Boris Johnson said he was satisfied with the export of weapons systems to Saudi Arabia in the expectation that they would be used in Yemen.
A guidance unit for a "highly explosive" bomb – stamped with the name of a Brighton-based company, EDO MBM Technology Ltd – was found on the site in the capital Sana & # 39; a in Yemen after four bombs at 12.45 on the site were dropped September 13.
Rocket parts from the same British factory – ultimately owned by US gun supplier L3 Harris – were also found by UN experts in the Alsonidar complex after a second air strike nine days later, where a water pump plant and a former pipe manufacturer were located.
Although the UK has licensed at least £ 4.7 billion in exports to Saudi Arabia since the country became embroiled in the war in Yemen, the UN documentation shows that British technology has been deployed in a conflict in which the Saudi-led coalition repeatedly has been accused of indiscriminate bombing.
British arms sales to Saudi Arabia of equipment that could be deployed in Yemen were considered illegal by the London Court of Appeal in June because ministers had failed to carry out a proper impact assessment of the civilian bombing.
Dr. Anna Stavrianakis, associate professor of international relations at the University of Sussex, said the UN report showed that such an assessment could have taken place. "This revelation is a damned indictment of a policy that is reckless in its neglect of civilian damage."
At the time, a spokesman for the Saudi Arabian-led coalition said war planes had hit the Alsonidar plant because it "becomes a military production unit specializing in the production of pipes that Houthis uses to assemble locally made missiles."
But reporting to the UN Security Council, the panel concluded "there is insufficient evidence to show that the factory complex had become a legitimate military objective" because there was no evidence that hardware had been manufactured on the site.
The pipe manufacturer on the site was no longer operational since 2014 and the panel said the only mitigating factor was that there were no casualties in the bombing because the attacks took place shortly after midnight.
The UN accounts were made public in January 2018 after the panel investigation, although they had largely gone unnoticed.
Ministers said they would appeal the ruling, but former international trade secretary, Liam Fox, told parliament that arms exports to Saudi Arabia would be suspended pending official investigation.
"The government's emphasis on the diplomatic, strategic and economic benefits of arms sales is becoming holder," Stavrianakis said. "Her dedication to international law has repeatedly proved superficial."