Middle East, Europe

Weapons sales to Saudi Arabia unlawful: UK report

Committee report finds British arms to be likely cause of civilian casualties in Yemen

16.02.2019
Weapons sales to Saudi Arabia unlawful: UK report File Photo

By Muhammad Mussa

LONDON

The U.K. government’s arms sales to Saudi Arabia is unlawful, an all-party committee of the House of Lords has concluded in a report.

The report, published by the international relations select committee, also found that by sanctioning weapons exports to the Kingdom, the British government has found itself on “the wrong side of the law” on the war in Yemen.

It added that these weapons are likely to be the cause of civilian casualties in the war-torn country.

The publication is the first from a parliamentary committee that has described the arms sales to Saudi Arabia as unlawful -- and has said that ministers are not making independent checks to see if British arms being used are in breach of the law. Rather they are relying on questionable investigations by their Saudi allies.

“The government asserts that, in its licensing of arms sales to Saudi Arabia, it is narrowly on the right side of international humanitarian law.

“Although conclusive evidence is not yet available, we assess that it is narrowly on the wrong side: given the volume and type of arms being exported to the Saudi-led coalition, we believe they are highly likely to be the cause of significant civilian casualties in Yemen, risking the contravention of international humanitarian law,” the report concludes, as quoted by The Gardian.

The report places no legal obligation on ministers, but is likely to put pressure on Saudi Arabia and UAE to resolve the crisis in Yemen through dialogue and halt military intervention.

Although a UN-brokered ceasefire in the port city of Hodeida is being held, coalition airstrikes continue to intensify across Yemen, as has fighting in other regions such as the Saudi-Yemeni border and the Sa’ada governorate.

The country has faced six years of civil war, with heavy involvement from regional powers backing opposing sides, leaving the population on the brink of famine.

War broke out in 2013 after Iran-backed Houthi rebels took control of the capital Sana’a, which led to a Saudi-led response, backed by the US, to reinstate the internationally-backed government.

An estimated 8.4 million people in Yemen are at risk of severe famine and more than 22 million people, or 75 percent of the population, are in need of humanitarian assistance.

International pressure has been growing to end Western-support for Saudi’s involvement in Yemen as more than 2 million people have been displaced, and over 10,000 killed so far.

The war has resulted in a collapsed economy and a cholera outbreak that has affected over 1.1 million people.

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