Eighteen months of war has plunged Yemen into crisis. Thousands of Yemeni civilians have been killed or injured; over three million people have been forced to flee their homes.
On one side is the Saudi-led coalition backing Yemen’s president-in-exile; on the other are the predominantly Shiite Houthi fighters and soldiers loyal to Yemen’s former president. The UK Government has been supplying arms to Saudi Arabia although the Arms Trade Treaty legally requires states to suspend arms exports to an importing country when there is an ‘overriding risk’ that they will be used to breach International Humanitarian Law.
Several players in the conflict are accused of violating international law. 23 human rights organisations are calling on the Human Rights Council to set up an independent commission that will investigate alleged violations by all sides in the conflict. But the UN also says that 60% of casualties in Yemen have been caused by the Saudi-led airstrikes.
On BBC Newsnight last year, the last Foreign Secretary pledged to halt arms exports to Saudi Arabia if breaches of International Humanitarian Law were found. The Saudis have now said that they have breached law in bombing a hospital and a residential compound.
That’s why Oxfam is asking Boris Johnson to suspend arms exports to Saudi Arabia and support an independent UN-led investigation into human rights and humanitarian law breaches.
Suspending UK arms sales will prevent more deaths and send a clear, positive signal about the UK’s international role in setting and defending standards for protecting civilians. It will also be consistent with the UK’s admirable programme for humanitarian help to civilians trapped in the conflict. The £85 million worth of humanitarian assistance provided to Yemen’s civilians is being undermined by weapons sales.
Please email Boris Johnson to ask that he put a stop on sales to Saudi Arabia. Together we can push for a lasting and peaceful solution to this crisis. Together we can urge the new Foreign Secretary to send a clear, positive signal about the UK’s international role in setting and defending standards for protecting civilians.
And, in the meantime, please support our work on the ground in Yemen. The situation on the ground is dangerous – but Oxfam is there and working around the clock to reach people who, right now, are facing sickness, hunger and further violence. We urgently need funds to help people with basics like food and clean water. If you can, please make a small donation.