The new center-left government of Spain canceled the sale of 400 laser-guided bombs to Saudi Arabia due to the concern of their use in Yemen. The government led by socialist Pedro Sanchez expressed its concern over using the bombs on Yemeni civilians.
The previous conservative administration of Mariano Rajoy signed the deal with Saudi Arabia in 2015.
“We confirm the news,” a Defence Ministry spokesperson said, declining to give any further details. The ministry also said last month that they condemn the killings of non-combatants in Yemen. They also mentioned that they had never sold arms that could be used against civilian populations and it would review any sales that have not been closed yet and could be used in attacks on unarmed civilians.
The freeze “shows a trend of waning European patience regarding the humanitarian disaster unfolding in Yemen”, said Kristina Kausch, a senior resident fellow at the Brussels-based German Marshall Fund of the United States.
The U.S., UK, and other European countries provided military and intelligence support to the Saudi-led Yemeni war since its beginning in 2015. The war intended to restore the government of President Abd Rabbuh Mansour Hadi who was ousted by Houthi rebels in 2015.
In April, Spain signed a warship sale agreement with Saudi Arabia worth US$2.2 billion.
Various rights groups like Amnesty International have criticized arms sale to Saudi Arabia and its allies as it has killed more than 10,000 people and left 8.4 million people on the brink of famine, per the United Nations.
According to Amnesty International, “There is extensive evidence that irresponsible arms flows to the Saudi Arabia-led coalition have resulted in enormous harm to Yemeni civilians. But this has not deterred the USA, the UK and other states, including France, Spain and Italy, from continuing transfers of billions of dollars’ worth of such arms.”
There was a widespread campaign against the arms sales by Spanish civil society due to the high number of civilian casualties.
Last week, a group of U.N experts accused Saudi forces of committing war crimes in Yemen. This group of experts on Yemen was established by the U.N High Commissioner for Human Rights in 2017. They submitted a report which mentions that Yemeni, Saudi and Emirati individuals can be prosecuted for acts that amount to international crimes “subject to determination by an independent and competent court."
According to the UN, the conflict in Yemen has become the world's worst humanitarian crisis with more than 22 million people in desperate need.
The Spanish ban on arms sale to Saudi Arabia comes few weeks after the Saudi-led coalition airstrikes on a school bus that killed 51 people of people, including 40 children, in Yemen's Saada province. A few weeks later reports revealed that the bomb was in fact made and supplied to the Saudi-led coalition by the United States.