We urgently call on our Government to abide by their obligations under the Arms Trade Treaty and suspend arms sales to Saudi Arabia, pending the outcome of an independent international investigation into alleged breaches of International Humanitarian Law (IHL). The clear risk that these arms may be used in serious violations of IHL in Yemen means we are crossing an important line established by this historic arms trade treaty. A treaty that the UK long championed.
Ongoing conflict means that Yemen's population is on the brink of catastrophe. Over 18.8 million people – more than two thirds of the population – are in desperate need of life-saving aid. More than 7 million people in Yemen do not know where their next meal will come from, with children facing the greatest risk of starvation. All sides of this conflict stand accused of committing serious violations of IHL. However, of the thousands of children who have so far died as a result, the UN Secretary General's report of April 2016 attributed two thirds of deaths to the Saudi Arabia-led coalition air strikes.
We are proud of our countries' support for the Arms Trade Treaty – but the treaty will only work if we lead by example. We must stay on the right side of the line it has drawn – arms sales must not go ahead unless it is possible to mitigate the risk of serious IHL violations. No such mitigation has been effective in Yemen.
From Aleppo to Taiz, and Darfur to South Sudan, the laws of war that our countries have spent decades establishing have never looked so fragile. We cannot ignore our own obligations to the Arms Trade Treaty – or possible violations of IHL by our allies. If our government acts now, we can protect the world's most vulnerable people – and the values which unite us all.