Even as Ottawa groups were planning a demonstration against the sordid Canada–Saudi arms deal, to coincide with the appearance of Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan at the annual CANSEC military trade show, Amnesty International issued a devastating new report on Saudi atrocities in Yemen. The report catalogues the grave risks of injury and death facing civilians returning to their homes in northern Yemen from the use by the Saudi-led coalition of internationally banned cluster munitions. See Yemen: Children among civilians killed and maimed in cluster bomb ‘minefields’ (Amnesty International Report, 23 May 2016).
Urgent action must be taken now to ensure that civilians and in particular children are not endangered by unexploded ordnance even after the cessation of hostilities.
“Donor countries must act quickly to support local efforts to safely and urgently locate, mark and clear areas contaminated by unexploded ordnance and educate affected communities on how to avoid danger in the meantime,” said Lama Fakih.
Amnesty International has found evidence of US, UK, and Brazilian cluster munitions having been used by the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen. The UK, who played a role in drafting and negotiating the treaty banning these horrific weapons , originally stated that the UK-manufactured BL755 device (containing 147 bomblets which explode into 2000 metal fragments) found in Yemen must be from a “previous” conflict.
However, in light of this new evidence, there is at long last an investigation being conducted into these allegations by the UK Ministry of Defence. In addition, Amnesty writes:
The junior defence minister Philip Dunne said Britain was seeking fresh assurances in light of the Amnesty allegation.
It is hard to see what possible use Saudi “assurances” of non-use might be in light of the mountain of evidence of actual Saudi use of these banned weapons. (See, for example, New Developments in the fight against the sordid Saudi arms deal, Ceasefire.ca blog, 18 May 2016).
In the words of Amnesty International:
The international community must call upon Saudi Arabia and its coalition partners to cease the use of cluster munitions and must immediately stop the transfer of these weapons to Saudi Arabia and fellow coalition members.
Meanwhile, back in Ottawa, the demonstrators at CANSEC early Thursday morning were a clear reminder of the majority of Canadians who do not believe that Canadian jobs should depend on the repression, maiming, and killing of innocent citizens abroad.
Then on Friday morning came a quiet move by the White House to block further sales of American cluster munitions to Saudi Arabia, given the growing death toll of innocent Yemeni civilians. See: White House Blocks Transfer of Cluster Bombs to Saudi Arabia (John Hudson, Foreign Policy, 27 May 2016).
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