Rights group: UN report erodes UK logic for arming Saudis

Rights group: UN report erodes UK logic for arming Saudis


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SANAA, Yemen (AP) — Human Rights Watch said Wednesday that a leaked United Nations report contradicts Britain's rationale for selling weapons to Saudi Arabia, pointing out that it says the Saudis as well as their Yemeni adversaries violated international humanitarian law.

David Mepham, the U.K. Director of Human Rights Watch, said the report's findings "flatly contradict repeated statements made by British ministers about the actions of the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen."

"For almost a year, (Foreign Secretary Philip) Hammond has made the false and misleading claim that there is no evidence of laws of war violations by the U.K.'s Saudi ally and other members of the coalition," he said. Hammond made the comments to lawmakers in the House of Commons this month.

Mepham added that the report shows the violations are frequent and widespread, including attacks on medical facilities, schools, mosques and populated residential areas. He urged the British government to halt the transfer of any military equipment to Saudi Arabia and its coalition allies that might be used for such violations.

The United States has been Saudi Arabia's main arms supplier, selling it $1.3 billion worth of munitions alone at the end of last year when Riyadh was running low due to the Yemen war. Britain, France and others have all taken part in the bonanza over the years, selling the kingdom billions of dollars' worth of arms, some during the fighting in Yemen.

The U.N. report, obtained by The Associated Press on Tuesday, was made by panel of U.N. experts who monitor U.N. sanctions, and had not been released publicly.

Yemen has been torn by conflict since 2014, when Shiite Houthi rebels allied with a former president captured large swaths of the country, including the capital, Sanaa, which they took in September that year.

In March 2015, a coalition of mainly Gulf Arab countries led by Saudi Arabia began launching airstrikes against the Houthis, later expanding the intervention to include a ground invasion. More than 5,800 people have been killed and over 80 percent of Yemen's population is in dire need of food, water and other aid, according to the U.N.

Coalition airstrikes targeting the Houthis in and around the capital have killed more than 20 rebels since Tuesday, security and medical officials said.

Some 26 people from both sides were killed during pro-government advances in the central city of Taiz, they said, adding that fighting also continued in the northern Jawf province and air raids hit the western coastal city of Hodeida.

All officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to reporters.

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Associated Press writer Brian Rohan in Cairo contributed to this report.

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This story has been corrected to show that the British foreign minister made the remarks in question this month, not last December.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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AHMED AL-HAJ

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