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The U.K.-based Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT) protests against arms trade with Saudi Arabia. (Photo: Campaign Against Arms Trade/flickr/cc)

UK Lawmakers Call for End to Saudi Arms Trade, Push for War Crimes Probe

'The weight of evidence of violations of international humanitarian law by the Saudi-led coalition is now so great, that it is very difficult to continue to support Saudi Arabia'

Nadia Prupis, staff writer

A U.K. Parliamentary committee has called for an end to the country's arms trade with Saudi Arabia, warning that the Gulf kingdom may be committing war crimes in Yemen with British weapons.

The Committee of Arms Export Controls stated in a draft report leaked to the BBC Wednesday that it "seems inevitable" Saudi Arabia's violations of armed conflict law would be done with arms from the U.K.

"The weight of evidence of violations of international humanitarian law by the Saudi-led coalition is now so great, that it is very difficult to continue to support Saudi Arabia," the statement continues.

The United Nations has accused the Saudi-led, U.S.-supported coalition of bombing schools, hospitals, and other public venues in Yemen that did not appear to be military targets. In June, the global body added the coalition to its "list of shame" of states and armed groups who violate children's rights during war—then removed it after pressure from the Saudi government.

With the U.N. Human Rights Council set to meet in Geneva later this month, organizations like Save the Children are calling on Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson to support a resolution that would launch an investigation into the overall military intervention in Yemen.

"This is a concrete opportunity finally to get to the bottom of alleged violations by all parties to the conflict, including the Saudi-led coalition, which investigations carried out by Saudi Arabia itself cannot deliver," the group's spokesperson Kirsty McNeill told the BBC. "Children must always be protected in war, and now the U.K. government has a unique opportunity to remind the world that war can and must have limits."

However, Johnson released a preemptive statement earlier this week that said the U.K. would not stop sending arms to Saudi Arabia, claiming the kingdom had not yet failed a "key test" of international humanitarian law. And Saudi Minister of Foreign Affairs Adel Al-Jubeir is also set to meet with members of U.K. Parliament on Wednesday, where he is expected to ask them not to support an arms ban.

The U.K.-based Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT) slammed Johnson's statement on Tuesday, charging that he was "putting arms company profits ahead of human rights."

"The Saudi regime has created a humanitarian catastrophe and the U.K. government is complicit in it," said CAAT's Andrew Smith. "Boris Johnson can see the terrible damage that the Saudi bombing campaign is doing and the devastating impact that UK bombs are having. If he cares for the rights of Yemeni people then he must stop the arms sales and work for a peaceful solution."

The group held a protest outside of Parliament on Wednesday, where they were joined by Shadow Defense Minister and Labour MP Clive Lewis and former Scottish Prime Minister Alex Salmond.

The U.N. said in August that at least 10,000 Yemeni civilians have been killed in the duration of the 18-month war.

Meanwhile, in the U.S., more than 60 members of Congress are scrambling to block a planned $1.15 billion Saudi arms trade as the number of civilian casualties rises.


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