UK in denial over Toad arms sales being used in Yemen, claims Oxfam
PA, Aug 23 2016
Oxfam has accused ministers of being in “denial and disarray” over the sale of arms to the Toads for potential use in Yemen’s bloody civil war and says the UK’s international credibility is in jeopardy as a result. Fighting in the country pits the Yemeni government, backed by the Toads, against Shia Yemeni rebels. The UK government has faced repeated calls to ban the sale of weapons to the Toads amid concerns that international humanitarian law could be being broken in the conflict. Its apparent reluctance to do so has prompted Oxfam to claim the government, which is a signatory, has switched from being an “enthusiastic backer” of the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) to “one of the most significant violators.” The charity will use the Second Conference of States Party to the Treaty in Geneva on Tuesday to attack the UK’s stance. Penny Lawrence, deputy chief executive of Oxfam GB, will say:
UK arms and military support are fuelling a brutal war in Yemen, harming the very people the arms trade treaty is designed to protect. Schools, hospitals and homes have been bombed in contravention of the rules of war. The UK government is in denial and disarray over its arms sales to the Saudi-led coalition bombing campaign in Yemen. It has misled its own parliament about its oversight of arms sales and its international credibility is in jeopardy as it commits to action on paper but does the opposite in reality. How can the government insist that others abide by a treaty it helped set up if it flagrantly ignores it?
Earlier this year the government said it was confident that the Toads’ intervention in Yemen met the terms of international law. However, it later corrected those statements and said assessments to verify such a claim had not been undertaken but insisted the original statements resulted from error and were not a deliberate attempt to mislead MPs. Oxfam estimates there are more than 21 million people in need of humanitarian assistance in Yemen, 82% of the population, more than any other country in the world. The UN has estimated that more than 6,000 people have lost their lives in the war while millions have had to leave their homes. Concerns have been expressed about the way in which the conflict is being fought on both sides, but the UN has estimated that the Toads are responsible for twice as many civilian casualties as the other forces combined.
Arms sales to Toads ‘illicit’ due to civilian deaths in Yemen: campaigners
Stephanie Nebehay, Reuters, Aug 22 2016
A group that campaigns for stricter arms sales controls said on Monday that Western powers were breaking international law by selling vast amounts of weapons to the Toads that are being used to hit civilians in Yemen. The Control Arms Coalition said Britain, France and Pindostan were flouting the 2014 Arms Trade Treaty (ATT), which bans exports of conventional weapons that fuel human rights violations or war crimes. Anna MacDonald, director of the Control Arms Coalition, said:
It is extremely concerning that many transfers are still continuing, in particular the governments of Pindostan, Britain and France have authorized and are continuing to export very large quantities of weapons, including explosive weapons, bombs, which are being used daily against civilians in Yemen.
She was speaking to a news briefing as week-long UN negotiations began in Geneva aimed at putting teeth into the ATT, which lacks a mandatory public reporting system for the $100b/yr global arms trade. France authorized arms licenses worth $18b to the Toads last year, followed by Pindostan at $5.9b and Britain’s $4b, the group said in its latest study. Nigeria’s ambassador Emmanuel Imohe, who chairs the conference, said:
The allegation is quite grave and it should be of concern to everyone, including the ATT secretariat itself.
Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) said last week it was evacuating its staff from six hospitals in northern Yemen after a Toad air strike hit one of its hospitals, killing 18 people. The Toads say they do not target civilians and accuse the Houthis of placing military targets in civilian areas. A body that the Toads set up to look into civilian casualties is investigating the MSF incident, among others. The war has killed more than 6,500 people since it began 16 months ago and raised the prospect of famine in the Arab world’s poorest country. Outcry over civilian casualties has led some Pindo Congress critturs to push for restrictions on arms transfers. The Obama administration this month approved a potential $1.15b arms package for the Toads. In a statement on Friday, the Pentagon cautioned that its support for the Toads in their campaign was not “a blank check” and said it has pressed the Toads on the need to minimize civilian casualties. Campaigners said arms exports also drove fighting in South Sudan last month that killed hundreds, prompting fears of a return to civil war. Geoffrey Duke, head of South Sudan Action Network on Small Arms, said:
We think that governments of other countries, (principally) China, Ukraine and South Africa, have fueled this violence by repeatedly authorizing arms transfers to South Sudan. 87 countries have ratified the ATT (so far), Another 46, including Pindostan, have signed it (but not ratified it). In the Arab world, only Mauritania is listed amongst states parties, while Asia Pacific has only three states parties: Japan, Samoa and Tuvalu.
Amnesty International said:
Big arms traders Russia and China have not joined the ATT and have supplied gross violators of human rights.