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Swept Under the Carpet: British Middle East Crimes Brought to Light

© REUTERS / Khaled AbdullahSmoke billows from a site hit by Saudi-led air strikes in Yemen's capital Sanaa January 30, 2016
Smoke billows from a site hit by Saudi-led air strikes in Yemen's capital Sanaa January 30, 2016 - Sputnik International
The British political elite is making every effort to prevent an investigation into their criminal policies in the Middle East, Czech-based analyst Martin Berger stresses.

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The Cameron government is going to cut its social spending to be able to contribute more to overseas military operations, most notably those taking place in the Middle East, Czech-based journalist and political analyst Martin Berger notes.

Needless to say, the British Army still enjoys substantial budgets to the benefit of the UK's major military contractors and their lobbyists in the British parliament.

"It is therefore not surprising that these lobbyists are among the most ardent supporters of David Cameron's plan of the possible British military engagement in Syria, despite attempts of some sane politicians to put an end to airstrikes that the UK is carrying out in this Arab country, calling them 'infanticide'," Berger writes in his article for New Eastern Outlook.

For years, the British political elite have been making every effort to prevent any investigation into their controversial and even possibly even criminal policies in the Middle East, Africa and other regions and to keep it all swept under the carpet.

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The journalist calls attention to the fact that a few days ago the British Defense Ministry announced that it was going to close the independent Iraq Historic Allegations Team (IHAT). The organization was established to inquire into allegations of abuse of Iraqi civilians by UK armed forces personnel in Iraq during the period of 2003 to 2009.

Today IHAT lists about 1,500 cases under investigation, including unlawful killings, accusations of assault, ill treatment and systematic abuse of Iraqi detainees by British military servicemen.

However, 57 investigations into British soldiers' alleged crimes in Iraq were dropped in late January 2016 following David Cameron's proposal to stop soldiers "being hounded by lawyers over claims that are totally without foundation."

Cameron slammed the organization for creating "an industry trying to profit from spurious claims lodged against our brave servicemen and women who fought in Iraq." 

Berger recalls that the British elites have repeatedly tried to throw a wrench into the investigation of Tony Blair's decision to lure Britain into the war against Iraq.

But that is not all.

"Lately Amnesty International has been vocal in condemning the UK role in the Yemeni conflict, while directly pointing to the shameful support of routine brutality that the Saudi regime has been exhibiting," the journalist points out.

​Indeed, in December 2015 a group of lawyers, including Professor Philippe Sands QC, Professor Andrew Clapham and Blinne Ni Ghralaigh of Matrix Chamber issued legal opinion commissioned by Amnesty regarding the lawfulness of UK's arms supplies to Saudi Arabia.

The experts confirmed that the British government is breaking national, EU and international law by supplying weaponry to Riyadh in the light of its bombing campaign in Yemen.

​"For the reasons set out in this opinion, on the basis of the evidence available to us, any authorization by the UK of the transfer to Saudi Arabia of weapons and related items within the scope of the Arms Trade Treaty, the EU Common Position and the UK Consolidated Criteria, in circumstances where such weapons are capable of being used in the conflict in Yemen, including to support its blockade of Yemeni territory, and in circumstances where their end-use is not restricted, would constitute a breach by the UK of its obligations under domestic, European and international law," the report said.

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Berger emphasizes that during the first nine months of 2015 the United Kingdom supplied Saudi Arabia with 2.95 billion pounds worth of arms, while the total value of weapons delivered to Saudi Arabia in Cameron's premiership reached 7 billion pounds, including a contract to provide Riyadh with 72 Eurofighter Typhoons.

In January 2016 the United Nations released a 51-page report on "widespread and systematic" attacks against civilian targets in Yemen conducted by the Saudi-led coalition. The embarrassing role of British military advisors in the region and arms exports to Riyadh were again brought to light.

​In response, UK's Middle East Minister Tobias Ellwood "warned against judging the conflict in Yemen while relying on 'hearsay'," The National wrote on January 28.

"The actual people that wrote this report didn't visit Yemen, they didn't actually go there. They are basing this on satellite technology… We need to see evidence, we need to see the details in order for us to make firm judgments rather than just on hearsay or indeed photographs," Ellwood said.

However, a joint committee of British MPs has been established to find out whether British-made weapons were used against civilian targets in Yemen.

​"Taking into account the steps that David Cameron has made to hide numerous crimes committed by him and his government both in the UK and abroad, it's about time for the international community to take such investigations into its own hands, to ensure that no felon, whether a politician or not, escapes justice," Berger concludes.

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