Minister under pressure to clarify why civilian casualty attacks have not been included in the Protocol on suspected violations of international humanitarian law
The government is under pressure to clarify why the classified record of suspected breaches of international humanitarian law did not contain a series of airstrikes in Yemen that resulted in many civilian casualties (IHL). Only when the government became involved in a legal challenge to its decision to issue export licenses to British arms manufacturers to sell weapons to Saudi Arabia for use in Yemen did the existence of the database, which has been operated by the Ministry of Defense since 2015, become public. The challenge was based on claims that the weapons were in violation of international humanitarian law. More than 500 potential violations had been reported in the database as of July last year.
Human rights organizations, however, argue that in a war in which Saudi Arabia-led forces have carried out more than 20,000 air strikes, the real number of violations must be much higher. The government refuses to make the database public, making it difficult to know the incidents have been reported.
Parliamentary hearings, however, have revealed that there has been no record of a number of airstrikes that could violate international humanitarian law and have been reported in Yemen by human rights groups and non-governmental organizations. Emily Thornberry, Labour’s shadow minister for international trade, raised a series of questions last October about a number of incidents reported by the Yemen Data Project, a non-profit, defense, human rights and humanitarian experts-led initiative that is believed to be the most detailed database of available air strikes. Attacks reported by the project that were not included in the database verified by the Ministry of Defense included the January 2018 attacks on a bridge and market in the al-Mufdhah area of Qaflah Athr district that killed 17 people and wounded more than 20 others, and a September 2015 airstrike at a funeral event that killed 30 people in the Khabb wa ash Sha’af district. The Ministry of Defense has stated that most of the incidents asked about by Thornberry were not reported in its database. “There needs to be a full investigation into why these incidents were not recorded, especially when all of the attacks involved civilian infrastructure and resulted in civilian deaths,” said Andrew Smith of the Campaign Against Arms Trade. “These people deserve recognition and they deserve justice. This raises questions about the robustness of the UK’s processes, but also highlights the appalling way in which this terrible war was fought. “In July, Secretary of Commerce Liz Truss insisted that all sorts of breaches of international law committed by Saudi powers were not a trend and were “isolated incidents.” “Since this brutal war began, Saudi forces have shown a total disregard for the lives and rights of the people of Yemen,” Smith said. “The cost to civilians has been devastating, but that was not enough to convince Boris Johnson and Liz Truss to end the arms sales that have fueled the destruction. “Airstrikes in Yemen kill 31 civilians after Saudi jet crashesContinueReadingSince the beginning of the war in Yemen, the United Kingdom has supplied Saudi Arabia with more than £ 5 billion worth of weapons. In September, the United Nations The research alleged that the U.K. Aiding and encouraging” war crimes committed by Saudi forces in Yemen may be “aiding and encouraging” war crimes, and other nations supplying arms to Saudi Arabia.” “It is more important than ever that these arms sales are stopped as we approach the sixth anniversary of the conflict, as is the UK’s complicity in this brutal war,” Smith added: “The UK is deeply concerned about the ongoing conflict and humanitarian crisis in Yemen. We fully support the peace process led by the UN Special Envoy and urge the parties to engage in this process constructively.”