UK on the ‘wrong side’ of international law over Saudi arms sales, Lords committee rules
The UK is on the “wrong side” of international law in exporting arms to Saudi Arabia for the conflict in Yemen, a House of Lords Committee has said.
The cross-party international relations committee urged the government to prepare to suspend the licensing of some arms to the Saudi-led coalition.
Read more: BAE Chairman: Britain should be a 'critical friend' to Saudi Arabia
Following an inquiry, it concluded that UK weapons were “highly likely to be the cause of significant civilian casualties in Yemen.”
“We are deeply concerned that the Saudi-led coalition’s misuse of their weaponry is causing—whether deliberately or accidentally—loss of civilian life,” it said in a report published today.
Since the war began in 2015, the UK has licensed £4.7bn of arms exports to Saudi Arabia, and £860 million to its coalition partners.
The report said that ministers were relying on assurances from Saudi Arabia that the weapons were not being misused and causing loss civilian of life.
It said this was not an “adequate way” of ensuring the obligations of the arms trade treaty were being met.
Committee chairman Lord Howell of Guildford said: “We do not agree with the Government’s assertion that it is narrowly on the right side of international humanitarian law in the case of licensing arms exports to the Saudi-led coalition.
“It is narrowly on the wrong side.
“Given the volume and type of arms being exported to the Saudi-led coalition, we believe they are highly likely to be the cause of significant civilian casualties in Yemen, risking the violation of international humanitarian law.”
The committee praised the government for its humanitarian response to the crisis – the UK has provided a total of £570m in aid since the conflict began.
Read more: Saudi Arabia and four US territories added to EU dirty money blacklist
The report concluded: “The UK should immediately condemn any further violations of international humanitarian law by the Saudi-led coalition, including the blocking of food and medical supplies, and be prepared to suspend some key export licences to members of the coalition.”
A government spokesperson said: “The UK is doing all that it can to help parties to find a way to end this devastating conflict.”