Calls for investigation over use of British planes in Yemen refugee camp attack

3 Apr

Posted by The Ethiopia Observatory (TEO)
by Louisa Loveluck, Cairo, The Telegraph

    Foreign secretary Philip Hammond said on Monday that British planes have been used in Saudi-led military operation

The British government faces calls for an investigation into whether weapons it supplied to Saudi Arabia have been used in air strikes that have caused mass civilian casualties in Yemen this week.

Around 40 people are believed to have died in an airstrike on a factory complex near the Red Sea port of Hodeida on Tuesday night, as a Saudi-led air coalition continued to pound rebel positions across Yemen. On Monday, 40 people were killed when a bomb hit a north Yemeni refugee camp.

“The Government needs to investigate if UK weapons have been used and take responsibility by announcing a full embargo on all arms sales to Saudi Arabia,” a spokesman for the London-based Campaign Against Arms Trade told the Independent on Wednesday.

Eyewitnesses at the factory complex and refugee camp said many of the bodies had been incinerated beyond recognition. At least 62 children have been killed in the fighting, according to Unicef.

Philip Hammond, the foreign secretary, confirmed to the Telegraph on Monday that British-built planes were being used in the air campaign, saying that Britain would support the military operation “in every practical way short of engaging in combat”.

Britain has longstanding military links with Saudi Arabia, which provides the defence industry with its biggest export market. Rights groups have criticised the relationship for prioritising economic ties over human rights concerns.

“Given the mounting casualties in Yemen […] the UK must exercise extreme caution and demonstrate that any arms transfers to Saudi Arabia will not fuel further civilian deaths and injuries,” Olly Sprague, Amnesty International’s arms campaigner, said on Wednesday.

Saudi Arabia and a coalition of Sunni Arab states are trying to halt the progress of Iran-backed militia, known as the Houthis, who seized control of the capital, Sanaa, in January, sending the elected president into exile.

The military operation is meant to be targeting Houthi fighting positions. But on Wednesday, Amnesty International expressed concern that the multinational coalition was failing to take sufficient precautions to prevent civilian casualties.

“It is becoming increasingly apparent that the Saudi Arabian-led coalition is turning a blind eye to civilian deaths and suffering caused by its military intervention,” said Said Boumedouha, the group’s Middle East and North Africa director.
 

Related articles:

    Yemen: Airstrike on Camp Raises Grave Concerns

    Yemen crisis: Calls for UK Government to investigate whether British-supplied jets were used in Saudi airstrike on refugee camp which left dozens dead

 

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