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British arms have contributed to ‘pattern of violence against civilians’ in Yemen, Oxfam report finds

BRITISH weapons have contributed to the “pattern of violence against civilians” in Yemen, according to a damning report published today.

The Fuelling Conflict report  from humanitarian aid charity Oxfam found more than four armed attacks on civilians had been carried out each day during 14 months of the ongoing war.

The analysis found more than 1,700 attacks by the Saudi-led coalition left civilians dead, wounded or forced to flee their homes.

“Air raids by the Saudi-led coalition using weapons solely supplied by the UK and US accounted for a quarter of all attacks,” the report said.

Oxfam acknowledged that all sides in the eight years of conflict have “repeatedly harmed” civilians.

However, the charity it said that between January 2021 and the end of February last year, Saudi-led coalition air strikes had been responsible for at least 87 civilian deaths and 136 injuries.

The Saudis and their allies were also behind 19 attacks on hospitals, clinics and ambulances and 293 attacks that forced people to flee their homes, with 39 per cent of all attacks causing displacement.

The numbers do not include “widespread” destruction of infrastructure vital to civilians, Oxfam said.

The report is being published ahead of a legal challenge, due in the High Court this month, by Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT) against the British government for supplying weapons for use in the war.

Oxfam said it was “intervening” to put forward expert witness testimony in support of the legal challenge.

The Court of Appeal ruled in June 2019 that British arms sales to Saudi Arabia for use in Yemen were unlawful, forcing the government to suspend new arms licences and review its licensing decisions. 

The government announced later that it had carried out a review and resumed issuing new licences.

Oxfam policy adviser on arms and conflict Martin Butcher said: “One of the reasons the government gave for restarting arms sales was its view that attacks that breached or potentially breached international humanitarian law were isolated incidents that did not display a particular pattern.

“Our report reveals a very different picture — a large number of attacks which harm civilians every day. 

“These daily events require proper investigation, and while there is a risk that serious human rights abuses could be taking place, arms sales must be immediately discontinued.”

The Department for International Trade said: “We take our export control responsibilities seriously and operates one of the most robust and transparent export control regimes in the world.

“We consider all our export applications thoroughly against a strict risk assessment framework and keep all licences under careful and continual review as standard.”

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