The Penge and Cator Labour branch passed a motion last week to raise awareness of the devastating war in Yemen
Proposed by local Labour member Patricia Gilbert, it aims to raise awareness of the human costs of the war in Yemen. The motion, combined with other efforts across the country, will add to growing pressure the UK government to cease arms sales to Saudi Arabia.
The full text of the motion, which was passed unanimously and unamended at last week’s branch meeting, is below:
Emergency motion for branch meeting: The UK government must stop its complicity in the devastating war in Yemen, stop selling arms to Saudi Arabia and work towards an end to the conflict
On 15th October 2018, the UN Humanitarian Coordinator for Yemen warned that the country faced the worst famine for 100 years (ref1) if airstrikes by the Saudi-led coalition are not halted and stated that 12 to 13 million people are at risk of starvation within months.
Since the Saudi-led coalition commenced its military campaign against Yemen in 2015, after the Houthi rebels, now allied with former President Saleh, took power, civilians have been attacked with impunity and the country has been devastated. In 2017, the UN verified (Ref2) over 325 attacks on schools, health facilities, markets, roads, bridges and even water points and called for attacks against hospitals, schools and other protected civilian structures and facilities to stop immediately. On 9 August 2018, a Saudi bomb was dropped on a school bus (ref3) killing at least 40 children between the ages of 6 and 11.
Over three million people have been internally displaced and untold thousands have been killed, mainly as a result of the Saudi coalition bombing campaign. Last year the worst cholera outbreak in the world affected 200,000 people. Over 22 million people are reliant on humanitarian aid. Millions of children are unable to go to school.
While the Houthi rebels have also committed human rights violations, the UN reports that the Saudi Arabia-led coalition supporting President Hadi’s government continues to be the leading cause of civilian casualties in the conflict. Amnesty International reports (ref4) that the Saudi-led coalition has committed serious violations of international human rights law and humanitarian law with impunity, including sea, air and land blockades that have prevented the delivery of international aid, helped the spread of deadly diseases and led to acute malnutrition across the country.
Throughout this catastrophic conflict, the British government has refused to stop selling combat aircraft, missiles and bombs to Saudi Arabia, despite overwhelming evidence (ref5) that these are being used in violation of International Humanitarian Law. Amnesty International reports (ref6) that last year, the UK issued arms exports worth £2.94 billion to Saudi Arabia in a period of just nine months.
Other countries, including Spain and Germany, have stopped arms sales to Saudi Arabia. Lynn Maalouf of Amnesty International states:
“There is no reasonable explanation by states such as the US and the UK that would justify their continued support and irresponsible arms flows to the Saudi Arabia-led coalition, when there is extensive evidence that these have resulted in enormous harm to Yemenis for the past three years.”
In August 2018, our Shadow Foreign Secretary, Emily Thornberry, asked:
“How much longer is this Tory government going to continue arming and advising a Saudi air force that cannot tell or does not see the difference between a legitimate military target and a bus full of children, a family wedding, or a civilian food market?
Therefore, this branch/CLP demands that the UK government:
- Ends its transfers of arms to the Saudi Arabia-led Coalition carrying out illegal and indiscriminate airstrikes in Yemen.
- Supports the World Food Programme’s call7 for new entry points for humanitarian and commercial food imports and a free-flow of commercial and humanitarian food inside the country.
- Pushes for an immediate and permanent ceasefire to the conflict in Yemen.
Proposed by Patricia Gilbert
Ref1 Yemen on brink of ‘world’s worst famine in 100 years’ if war continues https://www.theguardian.com/global-development/2018/oct/15/yemen-on-brink-worst-famine-100-years-un
Ref2 Report from UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs https://reliefweb.int/report/yemen/under-secretary-general-humanitarian-affairs-and-emergency-relief-coordinator-11
Ref3 The schoolboys on a field trip in Yemen were chatting and laughing. Then came the airstrike https://edition.cnn.com/2018/08/13/middleeast/yemen-children-school-bus-strike-intl/index.html
Ref5 UK arms sales to Saudi Arabia https://www.caat.org.uk/campaigns/stop-arming-saudi/arms-sales
Ref6: Exposed: British-made bombs used on civilian targets in Yemen https://www.amnesty.org.uk/exposed-british-made-bombs-used-civilian-targets-yemen
Ref7 Yemen: ‘Time is running out’ to head off devastating famine, warns UN food agency chief https://news.un.org/en/story/2018/09/1019752