Last month the Guardian obtained a leaked copy of a report by a UN Panel of Experts which found evidence of Saudi Arabia targeting civilians in Yemen in violation of international humanitarian law in the course of their military operations. The crisis in Yemen is having a devastating effect on the whole country and as matters currently stand, an astonishing 82% of the population needs humanitarian assistance. Meanwhile, UK arms sales to Saudi Arabia, a key military presence in the region have totaled about £7 billion pounds since David Cameron took office in 2010.
Speaking in Foreign and Commonwealth Oral Questions in the Chamber, Rushanara asked:
“A recent UN report suggested that, in a disturbing violation of human rights, Saudi Arabia’s military operation in Yemen is targeting civilians. Is the Minister confident that the UK government are fulfilling their obligations under the arms trade treaty in relation to Saudi Arabia?”
In response FCO Minister Tobias Ellwood MP said:
“We have discussed, and are looking in detail at, the UN panel of experts report. It was done by satellite evidence—we have to bear it in mind that the experts did not actually visit the country itself. We have shared and discussed information with Saudi Arabia. I had a letter from the ambassador this week confirming that every effort is being made to follow human rights law in support of President Hadi and UN resolution 2216.”
Speaking after the session, Rushanara said:
"I'm disappointed by the Minister's answer. The government is not taking this seriously despite repeated calls from the UN, the Labour Party and the International Development Select Committee to suspend arms exports to Saudi Arabia pending a proper investigation into these alleged and deeply worrying breaches of international humanitarian law.”