Report shows government 'in denial' on UK role in Yemen crisis

By agency reporter
July 15, 2016

In its response to the House of Commons International Development Committee report on the crisis in Yemen, published on 13 July 2016, the UK government has maintained that, despite all of the evidence on the contrary, the Saudi Arabian military has not breached international humanitarian law (IHL), says Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT) It has also repeated its preference for allegations of IHL breaches to be investigated by the Saudi government as opposed to an independent body.

Earlier this year, a UN expert panel accused Saudi Arabia of “widespread and systematic” attacks on civilian targets. Its report documented 119 sorties relating to violations of IHL and reported starvation being used as a war tactic.

Calls for the government to suspend arms sales have come from all quarters, including the European Parliament, Save the Children, Amnesty International, Oxfam,Human Rights Watch, the House of Commons’ International Development Committee, the Labour Party, the Scottish National Party, the Liberal Democrats, as well as MPs from the Green Party, Plaid Cymru and the SDLP.

Andrew Smith of CAAT said: "Despite overwhelming evidence that Saudi forces have broken international humanitarian law, the government has continued to arm and support the regime. We are always being told how ‘rigorous’ and ‘robust’ UK arms export controls supposedly are, but the decision to keep arming Saudi shows how hollow those words are. There is a humanitarian crisis in Yemen, and the UK government has been complicit in it."

Over 6000 people have been killed in the Saudi-led bombing campaign; destroying vital infrastructure and leaving 80% of the population in need of aid. Despite this, the UK has continued to arm the regime, with over £2.8 billion worth of arms having been licensed since the bombing began in March 2015, including licences for bombs and air-to-surface rocket components and a £1.7 billion licence for combat aircraft.

"There must be a full investigation into the serious allegations of war crimes being committed by Saudi forces, but it needs to be fully independent. If the Saudi Arabian government can’t be trusted to run free and fair elections then how can it be trusted to investigate itself for war crimes? If the UK government cares for the human rights of Yemeni people then it must stop arming Saudi Arabia", said Andrew Smith.

UK arms sales to Saudi Arabia are currently subject to a judicial review (http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/node/23228), following an application by Campaign Against Arms Trade. The claim calls on the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills to suspend all extant licences and stop issuing further arms export licences to Saudi Arabia for use in Yemen while he holds a full review into if the exports are compatible with UK and EU legislation.

* Read the government's response to the International Development Committee here

* CAAT https://www.caat.org.uk/

[Ekk/4]

Although the views expressed in this article do not necessarily represent the views of Ekklesia, the article may reflect Ekklesia's values. If you use Ekklesia's news briefings please consider making a donation to sponsor Ekklesia's work here.