MPs call for UK to halt arms sales to Saudi Arabia

BBC News article

The UK should stop selling arms to Saudi Arabia while Saudi actions in neighbouring Yemen are investigated, a draft report by MPs has said.

The Committees on Arms Export Controls said it was highly likely that weapons had been used to violate international humanitarian and human rights laws.

The draft report has been seen by the BBC's Newsnight programme.

The UK government said it had received assurances from Saudi Arabia but the committee said this was not sufficient.

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Boris Johnson defends UK arms sales to Saudi Arabia

Article by Patrick Wintour for theguardian

Foreign secretary says breaches of international law during Yemen airstrikes were not proven, as MPs prepare to call for ban on UK exports

The British foreign secretary, Boris Johnson, has defended UK arms sales to Saudi Arabia, saying the Saudi-led bombing campaign in Yemen is not “in clear breach” of international humanitarian law.

This week MPs will decide whether to call for a ban on arms sales to Saudi in light of allegations of indiscriminate bombing by the Saudi-led coalition during the 18-month-old Yemen civil war.

In a written statement to parliament, Johnson says: “The key test for our continued arms exports to Saudi Arabia in relation to international humanitarian law is whether those weapons might be used in a commission of a serious breach of international humanitarian law. Having regard to all the information available to us, we assess this test has not been met.”

His judgment is based largely on an Saudi-led inquiry into eight controversial incidents, including the bombing of hospitals. The report, published on 4 August, largely defended the bombing runs on the basis that the Saudis had received credible intelligence that enemy Houthi forces were in the area. In one case it offered compensation to the victims.

Defending the credibility of a Saudi-led inquiry exonerating Saudi targeting, Johnson said: “They have the best insight into their own procedures and will be able to conduct the most thorough and conclusive investigations. It will also allow the coalition forces to work out what went wrong and apply the lessons learned in the best possible way. This is the standard we set ourselves and our allies.”

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Don't just condemn humanitarian law violations. Stop them

Article by MP Stephen Twigg for theguardian

In the name of war, hospitals and camps for stranded people have been bombed. Leaders at the world humanitarian summit must hold those responsible to account

The recent airstrike on a camp for Syrians displaced from their homes is the latest in a long line of tragedies resulting from the disregard that certain parties to conflict hold for international humanitarian law.

The UN under-secretary general for humanitarian affairs, the UN high commissioner for human rights, the French foreign ministry, the White House and many others have all spoken out against this horrific attack, yet frustrations abound with the inability of the international community to stop them from happening.

While a recent resolution from the UN security council condemning attacks against medical facilities and their staff is welcome, it is only the starting point. Condemning violations is not enough – they must be stopped.

This frustration has prompted the withdrawal of the highly respected Médecins Sans Frontières‎ (MSF), one of the integral cogs in the humanitarian system, from participation in the first world humanitarian summit, due to take place in Istanbul this month.

MSF staff work in harrowing conditions on the frontlines of humanitarian response – in cities like Aleppo, Kunduz and Taiz – and this level of commitment can cost them their lives.

In announcing their withdrawal, MSF said: “We no longer have any hope that the summit will address the weaknesses in humanitarian action and emergency response, particularly in conflict areas or epidemic situations.”

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MPs call for immediate halt of UK arms sales to Saudi Arabia

Article for theguardian by Patrick Wintour:

An all-party group of MPs has called for an immediate suspension of UK arms sales to Saudi Arabia and an international independent inquiry into the kingdom’s military campaign in Yemen.

The call from the international development select committee follows evidence from aid agencies to MPs warning that Saudi Arabia was involved in indiscriminate bombing of its neighbour.

The UK government has supplied export licences for close to £3bn worth of arms to Saudi Arabia in the last year, the committee said, and has also been accused of being involved in the conduct and administration of the Saudi campaign in Yemen.

In their letter to the international development secretary, Justine Greening, it urged the UK to withdraw opposition to an independent international inquiry into alleged abuses of humanitarian law in Yemen.

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View the International Development Committee's report here

Watch the 27 January International Development Committee's enquiry sessions on my Parliament page

Civilian Deaths in Yemen Won't Stop a Billion-Dollar US Arms Deal With Saudi Arabia

Vice News article by Samuel Oakford:

The US State Department has signed off on the sale of $1.29 billion worth of weaponry to Saudi Arabia, including tens of thousands of bombs that will restock a Saudi arms stockpile depleted by the country's air campaign in Yemen, which has been linked to civilian deaths.

Human rights groups have repeatedly criticized Washington's support for the Saudi-led intervention in Yemen, where the UN says coalition airstrikes have killed more than 1,000 civilians. Monday's announced deal, which still requires rubber stamping from Congress, indicates those concerns have had little effect on weapons sales.

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