Sunday, September 25, 2016

Turning a blind eye to atrocities

Britain has blocked European Union efforts to establish an independent international inquiry into the war in Yemen. The Netherlands had hoped to garner broad support for its proposal that the UN Human Rights Council (HRC) in Geneva set up an inquiry to examine civilian deaths in Yemen, where the Saudi Arabia-led coalition is accused of committing war crimes.

Instead, with the UK refusing to give its backing, the Netherlands’ proposal for an international inquiry – submitted on Friday by Slovakia on behalf of the EU – was replaced with a much weaker one that the office of the UN high commissioner for human rights (OHCHR) dispatch a mission “with assistance from relevant experts, to monitor and report on the situation ... in Yemen”. This falls far short of what human rights groups and the OHCHR had wanted.

Boris Johnson last week rejected the need for such an inquiry, arguing that the UK was “using a very, very wide variety of information sources about what is happening to acquaint ourselves with the details” about Yemen. The revelation that the UK neutered EU attempts to bring about such an investigation is likely to raise questions about its motives. Since the conflict began, the UK has sold more than £3bn worth of weapons and military equipment to the Saudis and defence contractors hope more deals are in the pipeline.

Polly Truscott of Amnesty International said, “It’s shocking. The UK ought to be standing up for justice and accountability, not acting as a cheerleader for arms companies.” 

World leading charity Oxfam has also joined the opposition to the deadly Saudi war on Yemen. The aid agency has urged the UK Government to stop selling arms to Saudi Arabia, calls are growing for more aid to ease the suffering caused by the war in Yemen.

Also, 200 doctors and health professionals signed an open letter to the international trade secretary calling for the UK to suspend arms sales to Saudi Arabia. Fox has been touring Gulf states looking to boost UK exports. He is due soon in Saudi Arabia, where there are hopes he will broker a new deal for British-made Typhoon jets.

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