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    Armed people demonstrate outside the United Nations offices against Saudi-led air strikes on funeral hall in Sanaa, the capital of Yemen, October 9, 2016.

    Yemen Airstrikes: 'UK Putting Saudi Arms Sales Ahead of Human Rights'

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    The UK is "continually putting arms exports ahead of human rights" following its decision not to suspend the sale of arms to Saudi Arabia, anti-arms trade campaigners have told Sputnik. This comes after more than 140 people were killed in an airstrike on a funeral hall in Yemen's capital, Sanaa.

    The attack, widely believed to have been carried out by the Saudi-led coalition, has resulted in more than 140 deaths, while up to 600 people are thought to have been injured in one of the deadliest attacks in the conflict.

    US officials were quick to condemn the strike, saying they would not give Saudi officials a "blank cheque" to do what they like in Yemen, while British representatives said its controversial sale of arms to the Gulf kingdom was "under careful and continual review" in light of the recent developments.

    'Uncritical Support' to Riyadh

    Despite these assurances from London and Washington, Andrew Smith, spokesperson for the UK-based Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT), told Sputnik that the British government's "priorities are clear" when it comes to rebuking Saudi Arabia over alleged crimes in Yemen.

    "What we've seen is a government continually putting arms exports ahead of human rights and offering largely uncritical support to the Saudi Arabian government, which is one of the most brutal dictatorships in the world that has unleashed a humanitarian crisis on Yemen," Andrew Smith told Sputnik.

    ​The weekend's airstrike at the funeral hall in Sanaa comes on the back of a long list of alleged Saudi strikes on civilians and civilian targets, with Riyadh accused of numerous breaches of international humanitarian law.

    While the international community has called for an independent investigation into the claims, Saudi Arabia — along with its allies the US and UK — have blocked such efforts, instead calling for Riyadh to investigate the incidents themselves.

    ​"Saudi Arabia can't be trusted to investigate itself for war crimes. It's a regime that treats its own people appallingly, a regime that has shown time and time again that it has contempt for human rights. There needs to be an independent international investigation, but what there needs to be is an end to arms sales and also an end to the bombing as well," Mr. Smith said.

    Complicity With Arms Sales? 

    Critics have accused the UK of cashing in on Yemen's misery, with London selling US$4 billion (£3.3bn) worth of arms to Riyadh since March last year, sparking accusations that Britain is complicit in the violation of international law.

    "Since the start of August [2016] we've seen the destruction of hospitals, schools, food factories and now a funeral. The message this is sending out is that there's nowhere safe in Yemen for Yemeni people, and that the bombardment isn't doing anything to establish peace in the region — it's making a terrible situation worse. There is a humanitarian catastrophe and unfortunately the UK government is complicit in it," Smith said.

    ​With evidence suggesting British-made weapons have hit civilian targets in Yemen, CAAT have launched a legal challenge against the government's continued sale of arms, to be heard in the UK High Court by the end of January.

    "This is going to be a chance to really dig into the relationship between the UK government and Saudi Arabia and to expose the interests at the heart of the relationship with the arms companies and the way the government has worked hand-in-glove with the arms companies. We believe that these arms exports are not just immoral but also illegal," Mr. Smith said.

    ​"UK arms export criteria on paper is very clear — if there's a risk that these weapons might be used to breach international humanitarian law, then sales should not go ahead. It's clear that there's a risk. This a bombardment that has been condemned by the United Nations, condemned by Human Rights Watch, by Amnesty International, by Oxfam, by almost every single NGO with people in the region. The only people who seem to be saying otherwise are the Saudi Air Force and [UK Foreign Secretary] Boris Johnson."

    Related:

    UN Secretary General Condemns Attack on Funeral in Yemen Blamed on Saudi Arabia
    Senate to Vote Wednesday on Rejecting US Arms Sales to Saudi Arabia
    Oxfam CEO Urges UK Government to Halt Saudi Arabia Arms Sales Immediately
    UK High Court to Start Legal Review of Country's Arms Sales to Saudi Arabia
    Tags:
    Saudi funeral airstrikes, international law, humanitarian crisis, Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT), British Conservative Party, United Nations, UK High Court, Andrew Smith, Boris Johnson, Yemen, United States, Middle East, United Kingdom, Saudi Arabia
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