UK arms sold to Saudis must follow humanitarian law

By Ahmet Gurhan Kartal

LONDON (AA) – The U.K. expects all arm sales to Saudi Arabia to comply with international humanitarian law, British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt said Wednesday.

Hunt’s remarks came during an urgent session on the situation in Yemen after a question from Alison Thewliss, a Scottish National Party MP.

There were “160 air raids” in Yemen only in October and “60 per cent of those raids targeted civilian infrastructure including hospitals, food storage facilities, water and electricity sites and civilian transport,” Thewliss said.

“How does he expect the Saudis used weapons sold to them this month?” she asked.

“We expect all arm sales to comply with international humanitarian law and we have processes in place to make sure there are thorough investigations if we think they have not,” Hunt responded.

Hunt said there is a strategic partnership between the U.K. and Saudi Arabia, but “we are very clear that we are only able to supply them arms… if we are confident that it is in compliance with the international humanitarian law.”

He also said “the entire humanitarian situation in Yemen is totally unacceptable".

“I agree with the shadow foreign secretary [Emily Thornberry] that there needs to be a full investigation for all crimes that had happened," Hunt said.

The urgent question on Yemen was granted to Labour's shadow foreign secretary Emily Thornberry Wednesday afternoon.

The U.K.’s arm sales to Saudi Arabia has been under scrutiny and has recently come under focus again after the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in Saudi Arabia’s Istanbul consulate.

Thornberry previously called the killing a “disgraceful murder” and said the Saudi crown prince Mohammed bin Salman “takes his allies for fools,” mentioning some of the alleged crimes attributed to him.

Urging the U.K. government to use the Magnitsky powers for anyone involved in the murder, including those who ordered it, Thornberry asked for financial penalties on those responsible and the suspension of U.K.'s sales of arms to this country.

Hunt had said the reports about Khashoggi’s death, if they prove true, “are not compatible with our values".

According to the United Nations, Yemen is the world’s worst humanitarian crisis. As the conflict enters its fourth year, around 14 million people in Yemen, or half the total population of the country, are at risk of famine, the UN says.

As many as 85,000 children under the age of 5 in Yemen have starved to death since the war began, Save the Children, a rights group, reported on Wednesday.

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