Britain, the US and France may be complicit in war crimes in Yemen by supporting a Saudi-led coalition that starves civilians as a war tactic, the United Nations has said.
UN investigators recommended that the UK and others, who have since 2015 been arming and providing intelligence and logistics support to the coalition, impose a ban on arms transfers to prevent them from being used to commit serious violations.
The Court of Appeal in London ruled in June that the UK’s arms sales to the kingdom were unlawful because they did not properly consider whether the weapons would be used to commit "serious violations of international humanitarian law."
The latest UN report will likely be used by right groups and others demanding that the Government end weapons sales to Saudi for use in Yemen.
“This shocking report should act as a wake-up call to the UK government,” said Muhsin Siddiquey, Oxfam’s Yemen country director. “It offers all the proof needed of the misery and suffering being inflicted on the people of Yemen by a war partly fuelled by UK arms sales to Saudi Arabia and other coalition members.”
Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, the main parties in the coalition fighting against the Iran-aligned Houthi movement that controls Yemen’s capital, are two of the biggest buyers of US, British and French weapons.
The report accused the coalition of killing civilians in air strikes and deliberately denying them food in a country facing famine. The Houthis, for their part, have shelled cities, deployed child soldiers and used "siege-like warfare", it said.
Save the Children has reported that more than 85,000 children may have starved to death since the conflict began in 2015.
The UN experts compiled a secret list of more than 160 "main actors" among Saudi, Emirati and Yemeni government, as well as Houthi officials, for the first time. Investigators found potential crimes on both sides.
"There are no clean hands in this combat, in this contest," said Charles Garraway, the only Briton on the panel.
It found that a Joint Incidents Assessment Team set up by Saudi Arabia to review alleged coalition violations had failed to hold anyone accountable for any strike killing civilians, raising "concerns as to the impartiality of its investigations".
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"Of one thing we are pretty sure – things are going wrong in the (coalition) targeting process," Mr Garraway said.
Neither the Saudi government communications office nor UAE officials responded immediately to requests for comment.
The development came days after 100 people were killed in coalition air strikes on a Houthi detention centre in the city of Dhamar, south of Sanaa.