The UK must stop sales of weapons which could be used by Saudi Arabia in Yemen until an inquiry into human rights breaches is complete, MPs have said.
The Business, Innovation and Skills and International Development Committees’ joint report has evidence of breaches of international humanitarian law.
However, there is division between MPs on the issue.
The Foreign Affairs Committee’s report says weapons exports should stop only if UK courts rule the sales unlawful.
The committee’s Conservative chairman Crispin Blunt is understood to have drawn up the rival document after objecting to proposals to issue the call for immediate suspension through the House of Commons Committees on Arms Export Controls (CAEC).
Reports suggested he walked out of a CAEC private meeting to prevent a vote being taken on the draft report, because he felt it was one-sided.
Crispin Blunt’s committee, Foreign Affairs, issued its own simultaneous report
The move came amid claims that UK-made arms are being used in indiscriminate bombing raids on civilian targets by the Saudi-led coalition fighting Shia rebels in neighbouring Yemen.
One of the attacks resulted in the deaths of 47 civilians, including 21 women and 15 children, and injuries to 58 who were killed when a wedding party at a house was struck by missiles from military aircraft.
CAEC inquiry chair Chris White said the UK had led the way in setting up international humanitarian law to govern arms sales.
But, the conflict in Yemen raised serious concerns that the country was not determined to make sure they were respected.
“During this inquiry we have heard evidence from respected sources that weapons made in the UK have been used in contravention of international humanitarian law,” he said.
“The Government can no longer wait and see and must now take urgent action, halting the sale of arms to the Saudi-led coalition until we can be sure that there is no risk of violation.”
He called for an independent inquiry into the circumstances surrounding incidents in Yemen such as allegations of the use of cluster bombs.
And he said the current system for overseeing the sale of arms must be improved.
Saudi-backed government forces are fighting Shia rebels in Yemen. APA photo
The government has faced sustained pressure to suspend the sale of weapons to Saudi Arabia.
In August, aid agency Oxfam accused the British government of “denial and disarray” over the trade.
But Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson has defended it, insisting the export of weapons to the country would continue.
The CAEC is made up of four parliamentary committees – Business, Innovation and Skills; Defence; Foreign Affairs; and International Development.
The Defence Committee has not said whether it intends to publish its own report.
The British ambassador to Saudi Arabia announced on Twitter that he converted to Islam and carried out a hajj pilgrimage to Mecca, The Telegraph reported.
Simon Collis, the 60-year-old diplomat, reportedly converted in 2011 but his conversion was known to only a few in his inner circle.
He’s believed to be Britain’s first senior ambassador to carry out the pilgrimage although others have converted to Islam.
“God bless you. In brief: I converted to Islam after 30 years of living in Muslim societies and before marrying Huda,” his wife, he wrote on Twitter. The Telegraph reported that the Foreign Office declined to comment, calling his religion a personal matter.
Collis has extensive experience in the region, having served as an ambassador to Syria and Iraq. He reportedly moved to Riyadh in 2015. Collis also served as an envoy to Doha, Qatar.
An estimated 1.8 million people completed the hajj pilgrimage this year.
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