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Lords committee report finds UK’s arms causing 'significant civilian casualties' in Yemen

Photograph: A protestor in London last year demonstrates against the UK's arms sales to Saudi Arabia. (Alisdare Hickson/Flickr)

Britain’s international relations select committee has published a damning report concluding that the UK’s arms sales to Saudi Arabia are unlawful and called for some sales to be halted. 

The All-Party Lords committee has said that the UK is “on the wrong side of international humanitarian law” and should suspend some of the export licences. 

The report said, “given the volume and type of arms being exported to the Saudi-led coalition, we believe they are likely to be the cause of significant civilian casualties in Yemen, risking the contravention of international humanitarian law”.

The publication also stated that UK ministers are not making independent checks to see if British arms are being used in breach of law but are relying on Saudi led review processes. 

The report has not placed any legal obligation on ministers but is likely to ramp up pressure on Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, to resolve the crisis in Yemen without military force. 

Despite a UN brokered ceasefire on the port of Hodeidah, Saudi airstrikes in the Saada governorate are reported to be the most intensive since the war began in 2015. 

Jeremy Hunt, the UK’s Foreign Secretary travelled to Warsaw this week to meet with Saudi, UAE and US ministers to discuss the ceasefire negotiated in December. The committee added that “the (UK) government should give much higher priority to resolving this situation,” as it is both a supporter of the Saudi led coalition and a major donor of humanitarian relief. 

The war broke out four years ago and has left an estimated 8.4 million people in Yemen at the risk of severe famine and over 22 million people are in need of humanitarian assistance. The report described the situation in Yemen as “unconscionable”. 

See more from the Guardian here and Al Jazeera here.