The UK has now admitted that Saudi Arabia and its allies may have breached humanitarian laws in Yemen, an embarrassing turnaround on the Britain’s position over the war.
The British Foreign Office issued several corrections on Thursday to statements from ministers in Parliament over the past few months that international humanitarian law had not been breached by the Saudis.
Britain’s reversal in its stance came after a United Nations’ report released last month found that Saudi forces and their allies fighting in Yemen were responsible for killing more than 500 children.
Last month, human rights groups expressed outrage after the UN bowed to a demand by Riyadh that its coalition fighting in Yemen be removed from a blacklist of nations responsible for killing children.
Although a spokesman for UN secretary-general Ban Ki-moon said the decision was temporary, pending a review of the evidence, human rights campaigners expressed outrage that the global body had succumbed to pressure.
British sales of weapons to Saudi Arabia and other Arab monarchies in the Persian Gulf have faced strict scrutiny since Riyadh began bombing Yemen in March 2015, killing thousands of civilians.
Saudi Arabia launched its military aggression against Yemen in a bid to bring the country’s former president Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi, a staunch ally of Riyadh, back to power and undermine the Ansarullah movement. More than 10,000 people have reportedly been killed since then.
A UN report leaked to the Guardian in January found “widespread and systematic” targeting of civilians in the Saudi-led strikes. The report found 119 strikes that it said violated international humanitarian law, including attacks on health facilities, schools, wedding parties and camps for internally displaced people and refugees.