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UK Arms Allegedly Used In War Crimes By Saudis In Yemen

| by Kathryn Schroeder

Human rights activists allege Saudi Arabia carried out more than 80 unlawful attacks, or war crimes, in Yemen, in which some used U.K.-made bombs.

The Campaign Against Arms Trade contends that since 2015, Saudi Arabia has launched a "devastating aerial campaign" against Yemen, with targets that include areas where civilians reside with schools, hospitals, weddings and markets, The Independent reports.

Some of the attacks were allegedly done in breach of international law, and used bombs and cluster munitions made in the U.K. The sales of the arms to Saudi Arabia has reportedly been worth more than 38 billion dollars to the U.K.'s economy over the past two years.

More than 10,000 civilians have been killed in Yemen since January.

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The Campaign Against Arms Trade is challenging the U.K. government over its alleged role in the human rights crimes in Yemen. Human Rights Watch wants the country to stop selling arms to Saudi Arabia.

“It’s not just a question of the right thing to do, it’s also a question of legal liability,” Kristine Beckerle, Yemen and Kuwait researcher at Human Rights Watch, said, noting that Yemen is struggling from war, famine and cholera.

She also believes the air strikes Saudi Arabia is conducting in Yemen could breed terrorism.

“Do those conditions make it very, very difficult for civilians to live and get on with their lives? Absolutely. Impossible," Beckerle said.

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U.K. Home Secretary Amber Rudd said in June at a BBC leaders debate that selling arms was "good for our industry."

In a separate debate, she said the U.K. had the "toughest form of export licenses in the world," and that it sold arms in a way that was "robust and correct."

As for funding terrorism, Rudd said the country has "managed to reduce" funding links.

“We are always watchful to make sure that their [the Saudis'] influence, where it’s bad, is going to be limited, but you say that we should somehow distance ourselves from them because of their human rights approach to women and other elements -- how do we do that, how do we change that?" she said. "By influencing. By engaging."

There are calls for a report on the investigation into whether Saudi Arabia funds terrorist groups to be publicly released. Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson said it was confidential, and Rudd said it was "never meant to be seen."

The Saudi government, according to The Independent, has cleared itself of any war crimes being committed by its military.

“The Saudi government has approached this matter with great seriousness, and the seriousness it deserves,” Johnson said in October after a date for the review of the U.K.'s export licenses for arms to Saudi Arabia was set.

Andrew Smith of the Campaign Against Arms Trade wants the arms sales to Saudi Arabia to end.

"These arms sales aren't just immoral; we also believe them to be illegal," he said, adding that the legal action his organization has taken against the U.K.'s government will result in the arms exports to Saudi Arabia being given the scrutiny they deserve.

"But it shouldn't take legal action to stop the U.K. from arming one of the most brutal dictatorships in the world," Smith added.

Rudd said she is confident the U.K. will not be found complicit in human rights crimes against Yemen through its arms sales to Saudi Arabia.

Sources: The Independent (2) / Photo credit: Julien Harneis/Flickr

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