In Brief

UK may be complicit in Yemen war crimes, says UN

Experts say Western powers could be held responsible for horrors of the conflict

The UK, US and France may be complicit in war crimes in Yemen, UN experts have said.

According to a new report, the three Western powers could be held responsible for aiding or assisting the commission of crimes because they provide arms and other support to the Saudi-led coalition backing Yemen's government.

In a scathing report, the experts detail “air strikes on civilian infrastructure, indiscriminate shelling, snipers, landmines, as well as arbitrary killings and detention, torture, sexual and gender-based violence, and the impeding of access to humanitarian aid in the midst of the worst humanitarian crisis in the world”.

The panel argues: “States are obliged to take all reasonable measures to ensure respect for international humanitarian law by other states. Furthermore, the Arms Trade Treaty, to which France and the United Kingdom are parties, prohibits the authorisation of arms transfers with the knowledge that these would be used to commit war crimes.”

They continue: “The legality of arms transfers by France, the United Kingdom, the United States and other states remains questionable, and is the subject of various domestic court proceedings.”

The Guardian says the UN report will “very likely be used as further evidence for those demanding that the British government end arms sales to Saudi for use in Yemen”.

However, a UK government spokesperson said: “The UK has been at the forefront of international efforts to bring a diplomatic solution to the appalling conflict in Yemen. We operate one of the most robust export control regimes in the world.”

Minister have previously claimed they cannot determine whether any civilian deaths have been the result of British arms or jets because the coalition does not track their use.

In Washington, the US government has insisted that continuing arms sales to the coalition is more likely to help limit civilian casualties.

The four-year conflict has claimed the lives of at least 7,290 civilians and left 80% of the population - 24 million people - in need of humanitarian assistance or protection.

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