UK’s Saudi weapons sales unlawful, Lords committee finds

Report finds UK arms ‘highly likely to be cause of significant civilian casualties in Yemen’

The UK is on “the wrong side of the law” by sanctioning arms exports to Saudi Arabia for the war in Yemen and should suspend some of the export licences, an all-party Lords committee has said.

The report by the international relations select committee says ministers are not making independent checks to see if arms supplied by the UK are being used in breach of the law, but is instead relying on inadequate investigations by the Saudis, its allies in the war.

It describes the humanitarian plight of Yemenis as “unconscionable”.

It is the first unanimous report from a parliamentary committee describing Saudi arms export sales as unlawful, and comes ahead of an imminent high court appeal by campaigners to block arms sales to Saudi Arabia on the grounds they are in breach of humanitarian law.

Although a patchy ceasefire holds around Hodeidah, Saudi airstrikes are reported by the Yemen Data Project to be at their most intensive since the four-year civil war began in Saada governorate along the border between Yemen and Saudi Arabia.

The US Congress voted earlier this week to suspend US arms sales to Saudi Arabia for use in Yemen, but the White House has signalled the president will veto the resolution if necessary.

The Lords’ international relations committee concludes following a short inquiry: “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 committee also asserts that the UK “should immediately condemn any further violations of international humanitarian law by the Saudi-led coalition, including the blocking of food and medical supplies, and be prepared to suspend some key export licences to members of the coalition”.

It adds it is “deeply concerned that the Saudi-led coalition’s misuse of the weaponry is causing – whether deliberately or accidentally – loss of civilian life.

“Relying on assurances by Saudi Arabia and Saudi-led review processes is not an adequate way of implementing the obligations for a risk-based assessment set out in the arms trade treaty.”

The committee, chaired by the former Conservative cabinet minister Lord Howell, describes the British as supporters of the Saudis in the civil war.

The foreign secretary, Jeremy Hunt, has taken up the search for a peace settlement in Yemen as his single most important priority, apart from Brexit, and travelled to Warsaw this week to meet with Saudi, UAE and US ministers to discuss the state of the limited Yemen ceasefire negotiated in Stockholm in December.

The joint statement issued by the four countries following their talks was sharply critical of the Houthis adherence to the Stockholm agreement, but nevertheless agreed to do more to stabilise the Yemen economy in the north.

However, the peers urge the UK to be more active.

The committee, including senior former diplomats, says: “The government should give much higher priority to resolving – not just mitigating – this situation, particularly in light of the tension between its support for the Saudi-led coalition and its role as a major donor of humanitarian relief to those affected by the conflict.”

In its latest update on the war, the NGO International Crisis Group says: “Though the battle for the Red Sea port and city of Hodeidah is paused until the UN-brokered deal to demilitarise the area succeeds or collapses, fighting on other fronts has intensified, particularly along the Saudi-Yemeni border … Saada governorate has faced more Saudi bombardments than any other part of Yemen since the war began in March 2015, with the majority of strikes taking place near the border.”

With many thanks to: The Guardian for the original story

 

MoD aware of 350 breaches of international humanitarian law in Yemen

An Amnesty International protest of Yemeni civilians killed by airstrikes.

The Ministry of Defence has tracked 350 breaches of international humanitarian law in Yemen, new figures show.

Campaigners called the number “staggering” and warned UK arms had played a central role in creating one of the worst humanitarian crises in the world.

Saudi Arabia has faced criticism over its role in Yemen’s civil war, with warnings the Saudis were “orchestrating what will potentially become the worst famine in the last 50 years”.

Defence minister Mark Lancaster said alleged breaches were best investigated by the Saudi-led joint incident assessment team, with the Ministry of Defence’s (MoD) figures used to monitor the country’s approach.

The UK has sold £4.6 billion worth of arms to Saudi Arabia since its bombing in Yemen began, according to the Campaign Against Arms Trade.

The campaign’s Andrew Smith said: “These figures are staggering and shameful, but that is only part of the story. These aren’t just numbers on a tracker, they are also people’s lives.

“The three year bombardment has seen the destruction of schools, homes and hospitals. Thousands of people have been killed, and yet the arms sales have continued.

“We are always hearing how rigorous and robust UK arms export controls supposedly are, but these figures show how empty those boasts are.

“The people of Yemen are living through one of the worst humanitarian crises in the world, and UK arms have played a central role in creating it.”

In January 2017 the Government said it was tracking 252 alleged violations in Yemen.

Ministers have repeatedly insisted they operate one of the strictest arms export control regimes in the world.

They also say Saudi Arabia has a right to defend itself from Houthi rebels operating in Yemen, who have launched missile attacks against the Saudi capital Riyadh.

The new figures were released in response to a written parliamentary question from Labour’s Lloyd Russell-Moyle.

He said the figure “is a fraction of the number of war crimes that have been routinely occurring in Yemen”, most of which had been committed by the Saudi air force.

“The so called joint incidents assessment team, the self-investigating body set up as a fig leaf to make legal Saudi Arabia’s destruction of Yemen, has reported on only 41 allegations of international humanitarian law violations – a fraction of the MoD’s fraction. In reality, these statistics are meaningless,” Mr Russell-Moyle said.“They are designed to make the war look tidy and make Britain appear in control of its dubious ally, which is acting against all notions of proportion and restraint. The Tories are simply prioritising private profit over the lives of Yemenis.”

In his reply, Mr Lancaster said that as of March 21, the number of alleged instances of breaches or violations of international humanitarian law (IHL) in Yemen listed on the “tracker” database maintained by the MoD is 350.

He said 14 of these are duplicate entries, which means some incidents will have been recorded on more than one occasion due to the way the data is compiled.

Mr Lancaster added: “The MoD does not investigate allegations of Saudi-led coalition IHL violations.

“The Saudi-led coalition is best placed to do this, and does so through its joint incident assessment team.

“MoD analysis of alleged IHL violations is used to form an overall view on Saudi Arabia’s approach and attitude to IHL.”

Mr Smith, though, said the Government’s own analysis “suggests that breaches of international law have become a routine part of the bombing campaign”.

He added: “After three years of destruction, what more will it take for Theresa May and her colleagues to stop arming and supporting the Saudi dictatorship?”

With many thanks to the: The Daily Mail for the origional story.

Corbyn gets my vote to be next leader of Labour

Corbyn gets my vote to be next leader of Labour.

IF JEREMY Corbyn had been Labour leader and prime minister in 2002-2003 instead of Tony Blair millions of Iraqis now dead or displaced would be alive and living in their home country.

Saddam would still be alive, still a dictator, and there would be no Isis, no American/British nightly bombing in Iraq/Syria if he had been leader and prime minister instead of David Cameron in 2011. There would not have been half-million tons of bombs dropped on Libya. Gaddafi would still be ruling Libya and it would still be a prosperous country not as it is today, a governless wasteland. The Africans would be employed by Gaddifi in Libya, so no boat people drowning in the Mediterranean; no deaths trying to reach the country of their tormentor and wrecker of their homes. Similar could be said re Africans in Syria, Yemen and Afghanistan. Oh that there were multiple Jeremy Corbyns in the past century. Certainly a Corbyn clone would not have allowed the Palestinians to be punished (as the British did) for other peoples’ crimes. I’m not too sure how he would have handled the Second World War. It is possible that if there had been no British Empire (which a Jeremy Corbyn would never have allowed) Hitler might not have got the same idea. No wars, no deaths, no terror and definitelty no trident. No Hiroshima, no Nagasaki and definitely no drones. The billions saved would have paid for welfare reform. I’m sure there would be a downside to a Corbyn government but at least a lot more human beings would be alive and the world would not target or hate the British for what they did worldwide with their military killing machines.

With many thanks to: Peter McEvoy Banbridge, Co Down. In a letter to The Irish News. Friday August 21st 2015.

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