UAE arms fair showcases Belgian weapon in use by Yemeni militias

A type of Belgian machine gun known to be wielded by a Yemeni militia in the Hodeidah offensive is among the weaponry set to be showcased this weekend at one of the Middle East’s largest arms fairs in Abu Dhabi, Amnesty International said today.

According to promotional materials for the UAE’s IDEX2019 arms fair, the Minimi will be among the thousands of types of weapons available for sale. Manufactured in Belgium’s Wallonia region by FN Herstal, it is among an array of arms transferred by the Belgian Walloon authorities to the Saudi Arabia/UAE-led coalition in recent years for use in the armed conflict in Yemen.

An Amnesty International investigation last week documented the same weapon type being used by “The Giants,” a Yemeni militia that is backed and supplied by the UAE but not accountable to any government.

“It’s a jarring sight to have FN Herstal hawking the Minimi in the UAE after we exposed how the Emiratis illicitly gave this weapon to an unaccountable militia in Yemen,” said Patrick Wilcken, Arms Control and Human Rights Researcher at Amnesty International.

It’s a jarring sight to have FN Herstal hawking the Minimi in the UAE after we exposed how the Emiratis illicitly gave this weapon to an unaccountable militia in Yemen.
Patrick Wilcken, Arms Control and Human Rights Researcher at Amnesty International


“The Belgian authorities and FN Herstal must not sell more weapons to any forces fighting in Yemen, and particularly the UAE – the very country that is recklessly siphoning off arms to fighting forces, some of which are committing war crimes in Yemen.”

The Minister-President of Belgium’s Walloon region, Willy Borsus, called for an investigation in response to Amnesty International’s findings last week.

“We are eager to see the outcome of this investigation soon and hope it will lead to policy changes that bring Wallonia in line with its international obligations. Under the Arms Trade Treaty and EU Common position on arms exports, Belgium has legal obligations not to transfer arms to the coalition fighting in Yemen,” said Philippe Hensmans, Director of Amnesty International Belgium Francophone. 

“Any states doing so are signalling that money speaks louder than their stated commitment to international law.”

Under the Arms Trade Treaty and EU Common position on arms exports, Belgium has legal obligations not to transfer arms to the coalition fighting in Yemen. Any states doing so are signalling that money speaks louder than their stated commitment to international law.
Philippe Hensmans, Director of Amnesty International Belgium Francophone


According to publicly available data, since the outbreak of the Yemeni conflict in March 2015, Western states and others have supplied the UAE with at least US$3.5 billion worth of arms. Among them are heavy conventional weapons – including aircraft and ships – small arms, light weapons and associated parts and ammunition.

Despite the UAE and militias it backs being implicated in war crimes and other serious violations, the following states have recently supplied the Emiratis with arms: Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Bulgaria, Czechia, France, Finland, Germany, South Africa, South Korea, Turkey, the UK and the USA, among others.

Arms and defence industry companies from all the above countries are displaying their wares at IDEX 2019.

Amnesty International’s recent investigation documented some of these arms in the hands of “The Giants” and other unaccountable fighting forces in Yemen, including the Security Belt and Elite Forces. The proliferation of these groups is a recipe for disaster for Yemeni civilians who have already been killed in their thousands, while millions more are on the brink of famine as a direct result of the war.

“The ongoing carnage against civilians in Yemen – including at the hands of the Saudi Arabia and UAE-led coalition and the militias it backs – should give serious pause to all states supplying arms,” said Patrick Wilcken.

The ongoing carnage against civilians in Yemen – including at the hands of the Saudi Arabia and UAE-led coalition and the militias it backs – should give serious pause to all states supplying arms.
Patrick Wilcken


“It beggars belief that they would continue to market and sell billions of dollars’ worth of advanced weaponry to armed forces that are committing war crimes and exacerbating the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.”

An Amnesty International campaign calls on its supporters around the world to demand that all states stop the flow of arms that are fuelling war crimes and serious human rights violations in Yemen.

Background

The International Defence Exhibition and Conference (IDEX) runs from 17-21 February. Held every two years in the UAE capital Abu Dhabi, it bills itself as one of the biggest arms bazaars in the world.

According to Emirati state media, more than 1,300 exhibitors from 62 countries will be taking part in IDEX and its partner expo, NAVDEX. Exhibitors include other arms manufacturers whose goods have been seen in the hands of unaccountable militias in Yemen, including Bulgaria’s small arms manufacturer, Arsenal, and US armoured vehicle manufacturers Oshkosh and Navistar Defense. 

International arms fairs and exhibitions like IDEX are one of the main ways for governments and defence industry associations to promote and broker international sales of weapons, munitions, and other military and security equipment and services.