Belgian arms and technology play a far greater role in the Yemen war than previously recognised. According to the findings of the investigative research project #BelgianArms, Saudi Arabia is using Belgian weapons and technology in Yemen for ground and air operations.
The #BelgianArms team documented Saudi Arabia using the Belgium-made FN F2000 assault rifle, a light armoured vehicle with a turret made by CMI Defense and ammunition from the company Mecar. On top of that, Typhoon Eurofighters and the military version of the Airbus (the MRTT) use Belgian technology. Both of these aircrafts are part of the campaign to bomb targets in Yemen.
Belgium’s official stance is that it has halted arms export to Saudi Arabia, with the exception of the country’s National Guard. The minister-president of Wallonia, Willy Borsus, explained the exception, saying they are “in no way intended to conduct military operations outside of Saudi Arabia.” But the team found several videos of the National Guards claiming to be on a mission on Yemen territory. These guards are issued with the FN F2000 and the armored vehicle with Belgian turrets.
The investigation did not only examine arms in Yemen. It also documented Belgian armoured vehicles used in Bahrain to violently repress civilian demonstrations. Amid widely documented human rights abuses, these exports continued, which is a violation of the E.U. Common Position on arms export, a policy that all E.U. member states have agreed upon.
The team also documented widely-available Belgian small arms, like the FN P90 and the FN57, in the hands of hyper violent Mexican drug cartels. Despite the well-known risk of diversion -- and the EU common position prohibiting exports like this -- the weapons are sold year after year.
#BelgianArms is a collaborative effort involving the independent media house, Lighthouse Reports, the investigative network Bellingcat and three Belgian partners, the Flemish broadcaster VRT, weekly magazine Knack and the newspaper, Le Soir.