On March 26th, fighting in Yemen – which has resulted in what is now accepted to be the world’s worst humanitarian crisis – entered its fifth year. This week MPs have called for an end to UK arms sales to Saudi Arabia, while the UN has continued talks with Yemen’s government and its Houthi opposition in the hope of salvaging a crucial truce deal.
In 2018 alone, 30,000 people lost their lives as a result of ongoing conflict in Yemen. Thousands of others have been displaced across the country; others still are suffering from starvation and malnutrition. Despite all this, the UK is continuing to supply arms to one of the main parties in the conflict, Saudi Arabia.
Saudi Arabia is the UK’s biggest arms customer. Since bombings in Yemen began in 2015, the British government has authorised the sale of £4.6 billion worth of arms to Saudi Arabia, despite overwhelming evidence of repeated Saudi breaches of international humanitarian law in Yemen which have led to the deaths of thousands. The Government has even publicly acknowledged that UK-made arms have been used by Saudi Arabia in the conflict, but sales have not been stopped and strikes continue.
This week, on the fourth anniversary of the beginning of the conflict in Yemen, five opposition parties finally called on the UK to end its weapons sales to Saudi Arabia. In a joint letter to foreign secretary Jeremy Hunt, MPs from Labour, the SNP, the Liberal Democrats, the Green party and Plaid Cymru requested that all arms sales to Saudi Arabia be stopped while an independent investigation is carried out in to Saudi actions in Yemen. They wrote:
“It is morally reprehensible that the UK government is not only not considering changing its policy, but is actively lobbying other foreign governments, as it did with Germany, to resume arms sales to Saudi”.
The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, told the UN’s Human Rights Council this week that since December of last year, it is estimated that eight children have been killed or injured in Yemen every day. For as long as we continue to sell arms to those involved in the conflict, we are complicit in these children’s deaths and the deaths of so many others.