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UK accomplice to Saudi crimes in Yemen: Rights group

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
Saudi Arabia's King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud stands next to British Prime Minister Theresa May during a reception ceremony in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, April 5, 2017. (Reuters photo)

Britain’s arms sales to Saudi Arabia has been unlawful, making the UK an accomplice to Riyadh’s war crimes in Yemen, according to a British rights group.

In an interview with The Independent on Friday, Andrew Smith of the UK-based Campaign Against the Arms Trade (CAAT) said weapons sold to the Saudi regime have been used for killing civilians in Yemen.

Smoke billows behind a building following an air strike by the Saudi-led forces in the Yemeni capital Sana'a on December 6, 2017. (Photo by AFP)

According to the UN, more than 12,000 people have been killed since Saudi Arabia launched its deadly military campaign in Yemen more than two and a half years ago.

“The scale of the destruction that has been inflicted upon Yemen is appalling,” said Smith as quoted by The Independent.

A Yemeni man looks at the damage in the aftermath of an air strike by the Saudi-led forces in the capital Sana'a, on December 9, 2017.(Photo by AFP)

Smith said supplying weapons to Saudi Arabia was unlawful and the UK government, which was selling arms to Riyadh, was a complicit in this illegal act.

The Saudi-led bombing campaign has created all sorts of shortages, triggering a variety of issues across Yemen, including water, food and medicine shortage, as well as a deadly cholera epidemic which has killed nearly 22-hundred people and is suspected to have infected more than 840,000 others.

The United Nations children’s agency (UNICEF) estimated that every 10 minutes a child in Yemen dies of preventable causes.

CAAT accuses the British government of complicity with the Saudis in the atrocities against Yemeni people.

Confessions of a minister

Alistair Burt, the UK’s Minister of State for the Foreign and Commonwealth office, told lawmakers at the House of Commons that his ministry has “been tracking 318 incidents of potential concern” since the Saudi’s deadly campaign kicked off. 

He said that "sensitive information" was provided by liaison officers and used for the analysis of incidents of potential concern which result from air operations in Yemen.

Burt, however, claimed that not one of the 318 incidents tracked by the ministry had hit civilian targets.

However, Burt claimed that in all these attacks no civilians were killed and international law remained unbroken.

“We have a rigorous legal and parliamentary process, and ensuring that international humanitarian law is not breached is clearly a vital part of that. The information supplied by those liaison officers is crucial to ensuring that our international obligations are observed. That is why they are there,” he said.

One lawmaker in parliament protested to the minister’s blatant cover-up of the truth.  Alison Thewliss asked how it was possible that innumerous Saudi airstrikes had not left even one civilian casualty.

“The Minister mentioned 318 incidents of concern, and he may wish to clarify that. How many more incidents are acceptable to the Government, given that 318 incidents of concern have been picked up by the people involved and the armed forces on the ground in Yemen? That is a huge amount of “concern” to have,” asked Thewliss from the Scottish National Party.

'Stop arms sales now'

British Minister of State for the Foreign and Commonwealth office, Alistair Burt. (Photo by AFP)

Given the ample proof and positive evidence of civilian deaths and war crimes committed by Saudi Arabia on the Yemeni nation and the humanitarian crisis triggered by Riyadh in the poverty-stricken Arab state, UK and international law forbid Britain from selling weapons to Saudi Arabia.

CAAT’s Smith told the Independent: “History will look back on these atrocities as entirely preventable, and the UK Government’s role as entirely complicit. If human rights and democracy are to mean anything in Downing Street, then [Prime Minister Theresa] May and her colleagues must end the arms sales now.”

Meanwhile, UK arms sales to Saudi Arabia remain in the billions. 

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