Friday, April 15, 2016

Yemen War: Home Office V Foreign Office

An internal Home Office assessment contradicts claims by the Foreign Office that Saudi-led airstrikes in Yemen are not in breach of international humanitarian law.

The assessment issued guidance to immigration and asylum decision-makers, advising them that “indiscriminate violence” in the country was likely a breach of the European Convention on Human Rights. The Home Office states: “There are reports of the use of indiscriminate acts of violence by both sides, including the use of cluster bombs and attacks on civilians, homes, schools, factories, markets and reports of civilians fleeing airstrikes and being chased and shot at by helicopters.” It adds: “In the north, west and center of the country the humanitarian and security conditions are likely, in many cases, to breach Article 3 and/or Article 15(c) of the European convention.” 

However, the Foreign Office memorandum, published on the same day, takes a completely different stance on the Yemen conflict.  A Foreign Office memorandum released to the select committee on arms exports licenses declared that Saudi Arabia is acting within international law. Furthermore, the memo asserted there was no need for Britain to suspend weapons exports to the Gulf state. Lieutenant General Sir Simon Mayall, Ministry of Defence Middle East adviser until late 2014, urged the committee not to suspend exports to Saudi Arabia. “Our supporters are already dismayed and exasperated by our predilection to indulge special interest groups over our national interest. Our competitors can only see great opportunities to fill the economic vacuum that would be left by the UK’s actions, and our enemies will delight in seeing the UK’s commitment to Gulf stability weakened or broken,” he writes.

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