RT News – 2016-02-04 00:20:23
British MPs: Halt Saudi Arms Sales Immediately,
Probe Civilian Attacks in Yemen
LONDON (February 3, 2016) — A group of MPs have called on the British government to immediately suspend arms sales to Saudi Arabia and have demanded an independent inquiry into the war in Yemen, where British arms are thought to have been used against civilians.
In a letter to Development Secretary Justine Greening, the International Development Select Committee urged the UK to cease opposing an inquiry, which aims to examine potential breaches of humanitarian law by the Saudi bombing campaign in Yemen. It comes after human rights charities and anti-war groups criticized Saudi Arabia for allegedly bombing civilian targets.
The British government has sold Â£1 billion (US$1.45 billion) worth of arms to the Saudi government in the past year.
Last week a leaked UN report found Saudi Arabia guilty of breaking humanitarian law. In response the Saudi government set up an internal inquiry.
British MPs say the UK should back an independent inquiry. Members of the committee were shocked to hear the UK had hindered efforts to launch such an investigation in September 2015 when it was proposed by the UN.
“We need an independent, international fact-finding mission to uncover the truth. Until then we should cease selling arms to Saudi Arabia,” wrote committee chair Stephen Twigg. “All parties to this conflict should review their obligations under international law and undertake to put civilians and humanitarian work above other interests.”
MPs said they had been presented with evidence from the head of UNICEF Yemen, who said the Saudi-led coalition had been involved in bombing campaigns which endangered the lives of civilians.
The committee’s letter was welcomed by activist group Campaign Against the Arms Trade (CAAT), which condemned the British government’s actions.
“The humanitarian situation is getting worse and the UK government has been complicit in it. We agree that arms sales need to stop, but they should never have been allowed in the first place.
“Saudi Arabia has a terrible human rights record and has been supported by governments of all political colors for far too long,” said CAAT’s Andrew Smith.
The leaked UN report, obtained by the Guardian last week, found that Saudi airstrikes are breaching international law by hitting civilian targets, including refugee camps, civilian weddings, vehicles, medical facilities and schools.
The UN panel of experts on Yemen used satellite imagery to look at areas before and after bombings, which also targeted an Oxfam warehouse storing equipment for a water project funded by the EU.
There were also protests outside the London arms traders dinner on Tuesday evening, when activists demonstrated against the glamorous dinner attended by major arms companies and high profile MPs.
#StopArmingSaudi: Activists Target UK Weapons
In Yemen at Plush London Arms Trade Banquet
(February 3, 2016) — Anti-arms trade campaigners decrying the Saudi campaign in Yemen are physically removed from tLondon’s Park Lane Hilton Hotel after they attempted to disrupt an annual dinner held at the site for arms dealers and politicians.
LONDON (January 29, 2016) — Anti-arms trade campaigners will protest outside the glamorous Hilton Hotel on London’s lavish Park Lane next week as arms giants and MPs gather for their swanky annual industry dinner.
The demonstration follows similar protests in 2015, when a pregnant activist stormed onto the podium during dinner to give an impassioned speech about the devastating effects of the arms trade.
This year, the protest’s focus is Britain’s trading relationship with Saudi Arabia, which is waging war on Yemen’s Houthi rebels.
“As millions of people in Yemen struggle to find enough to eat, arms dealers profiting from the country’s devastation will gather in London for a Â£250/head dinner,” the Facebook group for the protest reads.
“The Saudi-led bombing of Yemen has killed thousands and caused a humanitarian crisis. 14 million people are facing food insecurity and 1.4 million children are acutely malnourished.”
The Campaign Against the Arms Trade (CAAT) says Britain sold Â£2.8 billion worth of arms to Saudi Arabia during the first five months of bombing, “despite evidence that war crimes have been committed.”
“Don’t let them dine in peace as lives are torn apart elsewhere. Join us to protest at the dinner and build the pressure to #StopArmingSaudi,” the group says.
Some of the arms traders expected to attend the dinner include BAE Systems, Finmeccanica, Raytheon and MBDA, alongside many prominent politicians.
In her speech last year, the pregnant activist told assembled arms dealers and MPs that making profit “causing death and destruction around the world” was unacceptable.
After making her way to a microphone undetected, Anne Marie O’Reilly said her unborn child faced a world where arms dealers profit from human suffering and bloodshed. The incident was caught on camera and shared widely online.
This year’s protest comes as the Labour Party pressures the government to re-establish the parliamentary watchdog on arms exports to ensure British arms are not being used to breach international humanitarian law.
Last week, Shadow Foreign Secretary Hilary Benn said a “detailed assessment” was necessary.
The war in Yemen has left more than 7,000 civilians dead. There is a growing body of evidence to suggest Saudi is deliberately targeting civilians with British made weaponry.
“Given the growing number of reports and public concern, I believe the case for a full and detailed assessment of whether there is a clear risk that British weapons might be used in violation of international humanitarian law in Yemen is now overwhelming. I hope therefore that the new committee will urgently consider examining the government’s approach to these licenses,” Benn wrote to the government.
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