Britain is responsible for the deaths of innocent children in Yemen, say Labour

Posted On: 
7th March 2018

Britain is responsible for the deaths of thousands of civilians - including children - in the Yemeni war, Labour has declared.

A boy walks on rubble of a house destroyed by air strikes carried out by the Saudi-led coalition in Sanaa, Yemen.
Mohammed Mohammed/Xinhua News Agency/PA Images

A spokesman for Jeremy Corbyn spoke out after the Labour leader accused the Government of "colluding" in war crimes.

Mr Corbyn also said UK military advisers were "directing the war" in the country.

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A report by Unicef in January claimed that 5,000 children had been killed in Yemen - where a Saudi Arabia-led coalition is battling Houthi rebels - since 2015.

In the Commons, Mr Corbyn called on Theresa May to demand an end to the military action when she holds talks Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman, who is visiting the UK.

"A humanitarian disaster is now taking place in Yemen - millions face starvation, 600,000 children have cholera because of the Saudi-led bombing campaign and the blockade, " he said.

"Germany has suspended arms sales to Saudi Arabia, but British arms sales have sharply increased and British military advisers are directing the war. It cannot be right that her government is colluding in what the UN says is evidence of war crimes."

The Labour leader's spokesman went further afterwards, telling reporters that the Government was directly responsible for the targeting of hospitals and schools by the Saudi air force.

And he said ministers should be "held accountable" for the deaths of innocent civilians.

He said: "British military personnel are in the room when military and bombing campaigns are being conducted. They're advising directly on the targeting of infrastructure and operations in Yemen. If they're trying to avoid civilian casualties it's been a disastrous failure. The targeting of schools and hospitals in Yemen by the Saudi air force is of a very large scale.

"We quite clearly hold the Government to account and hold the Government responsible for its support for this campaign and for the large number of civilians that have been killed and civilian infrastructure which has been targeted.

"It's the Government that's making these decisions, it's the Government that's deployed the personnel. They are directly involved in the targeting process which has led to large numbers of civilian casualties."

Asked if Theresa May had blood on her hands, the spokesman said: "This government is responsible for the decisions that have been taken to support this military campaign and support this aerial bombing campaign of Yemen, and has directed British military personnel to take part in advising on the targeting of aerial operations in Yemen and the consequence of that has been significant and extensive targeting of civilian infrastructure and very large numbers of civilian casualties, including very large numbers of children."

But a Downing Street spokesman denied that the UK has played any role in the identification of bombing targets by the Saudis.

He said: "The suggestion that British military advisers are directing the war is simply not true. The UK is not a member of the Saudi-led coalition operating in Yemen, UK personnel are not involved in carrying out strikes, directing or conducting operations in Yemen and are not involved in the Saudi targeting decision-making process."