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Devastating air strikes, led by Saudi Arabia, have killed thousands of women, men and children, and destroyed homes, schools and hospitals across Yemen. Meanwhile, the UK government has been providing weapons to those committing these horrific war crimes. The United States has now decided to halt some of its arms sales to Saudi Arabia.

Boris Johnson has raised ‘profound concern’ at the suffering of Yemeni people. He has the power to ensure the UK is not complicit in killing civilians – call on him to end these arms sales.

UK: Stop selling arms to Saudi Arabia

The forgotten war

'My girls were killed and I wish I had died with them. I have nothing else in life.'
Salama, who lost three daughters in the bombing of a school in Aden where displaced people were sheltering

In March 2015, an international coalition led by Saudi Arabia – including the United Arab Emirates, Egypt, Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar, Morocco, Jordan and Sudan – launched air strikes against the Huthi armed group in Yemen.

Since then, the conflict has spread and fighting has engulfed the entire country. On top of relentless attacks by coalition forces from the air, a battle between rival groups is raging on the ground.

Yet this conflict has barely made the headlines.

UK involvement

By arming Saudi Arabia the UK is deeply implicated in a bombing campaign that’s killed and injured thousands of Yemeni civilians.

The Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson recently raised concerns at the suffering of the people of Yemen while speaking to Gulf leaders at a conference in Bahrain. 

The US now decided to halt some planned arms sales to Saudi Arabia as 'a direct reflection of the concerns that we have about Saudi strikes that have resulted in civilian casualties.' However this still falls far short of what is needed to end civilian bloodshed and suffering in Yemen.

In his role as Foreign Secretary, Boris Johnson has the power to suspend UK arms sales to Saudi Arabia and call for an investigation into the human rights violations committed by all sides. 

Evidence of UK-made, illegal weapons

In April 2016, our research team discovered a UK-made cluster bomb, used by the coalition in a series of strikes on civilians in Yemen. Cluster bombs are internationally banned weapons.

The MoD has now admitted the UK exported 500 cluster bombs to Saudi Arabia between 1986 and 1989.

At least 16 civilians, including nine children, have been maimed, and two children killed. Many more people are still at risk from thousands of unexploded cluster bombs left in their neighbourhoods.

In breach of the Arms Trade Treaty

The UK has fuelled this appalling conflict through reckless arms sales which break its own laws and the global Arms Trade Treaty it once championed.

According to leading international lawyers, in a report commissioned by Amnesty and Saferworld, the continued selling of arms by the UK to Saudi Arabia is breaking national, EU and international law.

An estimated £18 billion of arms export licences were sold to Saudi Arabia during 2015 from th UK, France, Germany, Italy, Montenegro, the Netherlands, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey and the US.

Caught in the middle

Civilians are trapped in the middle of violence. The coalition forces have carried out a series of air strikes targeting schools that were still in use.

We investigated five strikes on schools between August and October that killed five civilians and injured at least 14 others, including four children.

There is no access to essential services including clean water and electricity, and food prices have soared creating a desperate situation for millions of people.

Access to health care is also restricted with medical centres shut down, frequent attacks on medical staff and dwindling supplies of electricity, fuel, medication and surgical equipment.

Hospital bombing

A hospital supported by Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) in northern Yemen was bombed on 26 October 2015. This attack may amount to a war crime and demands an urgent, independent and thorough investigation.

Children among the dead

In one airstrike on a home in Dammaj valley coalition forces killed eight children from the same family, and injured nine other relatives.

‘There were 19 people in the house when it was bombed. All but one were women and children. The children who would usually be outside during the day were in the house because it was lunchtime. They were all killed or injured. One of the dead was a 12-day-old baby.’

Abdullah Ahmed Yahya al-Sailami, whose one-year-old son was among those killed

What we’re calling for

The UK must end its transfers of arms to the Saudi Arabi-led Coalition carrying out illegal and indiscriminate airstrikes in Yemen.

We must not supply weapons that could be used to commit human rights violations or war crimes.

There must also be an independent enquiry into the supply of arms to Saudi Arabia and all parties currently involved into Yemen conflict.

Made in the UK

The UK is a major supplier of arms and other military equipment to Saudi Arabia. In 2015, the UK licenced a staggering £3.8 billion worth of weapons, including bombs and combat aircraft to Saudi Arabia.

Globally, an estimated £18 billion of arms export licences were sold to Saudi Arabia during 2015 from the worlds leading arms supplying nations, including the UK, France, Germany, Italy, Montenegro, the Netherlands, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey and the US.

Made in the UK. Ruining lives in Yemen.

With so many missiles sent to Saudi Arabia, we decided the UK government must be running low on supplies. So we delivered five (phony) missiles to Downing Street to replenish their stock...

Saudi 'assurances'

When pressed on the matter, UK ministers have said that Saudi Arabia has provided it with ‘assurances’ of their proper use.

‘The UK government has previously claimed its arms are being properly used in Yemen, but what on earth is it basing this on? It seems to be no more than claims from the Saudi Arabian authorities themselves. With mounting evidence of the reckless nature of the Saudi-led coalition’s bombing campaign in Yemen, the government must urgently investigate whether UK-supplied weaponry has killed civilians in places like Sa’da.’

Oliver Sprague, Amnesty International UK’s Arms Control Programme Director

Speaking on BBC Newsnight, former Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond said that there need to be 'proper investigations' into whether weapons supplied to Saudi Arabia have been misused in Yemen, adding that 'we need to work with the Saudis to establish that international humanitarian law has been complied with.'

Mr Hammond’s remarks are grossly inadequate. We need an independent investigation into whether UK arms supplied to Saudi Arabia have been used to commit appalling attacks on civilians in Yemen.

'Rather than meekly accepting Saudi assurances over Yemen, the government should have been urgently investigating mounting reports of Saudi war crimes all along. It shouldn’t have taken more than 2,000 Yemeni civilian deaths for the Foreign Secretary to finally realise that simply relying on Saudi denials over war crimes was always a disastrous course of action.'

Kate Allen, Amnesty UK Director

 

 

Arms Trade Treaty

The UK has fuelled this appalling conflict through reckless arms sales which break its own laws and the global Arms Trade Treaty it once championed.

According to leading international lawyers, in a report commissioned by Amnesty and Saferworld, the continued selling of arms by the UK to Saudi Arabia is breaking national, EU and international law.

The lawyers, Professor Philippe Sands QC, Professor Andrew Clapham and Blinne Ní Ghrálaigh of Matrix Chambers, concluded that, on the basis of the information available, the UK government is acting in breach of its legal obligations by continuing to authorise transfers of weapons to Saudi Arabia, capable of being used in Yemen.

'UK government policy on Yemen is in disarray. The UK gives aid to Yemen with one hand while supporting the destruction of the country with the other.

'With the first face-to-face peace talks since the beginning of the Yemeni conflict happening this week, the UK Government should help turn a fragile ceasefire into a permanent peace by stopping its support to one side of the conflict.

'It’s time the UK acted as a peace broker, rather than an arms broker. The UK government must halt these arms sales immediately.'

Saferworld Executive Director Paul Murphy