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Yemen war crimes under spotlight in UK parliament debate

Labour Party to hold opposition debate to put government on spot for relying on the Saudis to investigate allegations of atrocities
Women protest in Sanaa over Saudi coalition air attacks (Reuters)

The opposition Labour Party is to use a debate in the British parliament on Wednesday to call the Conservative government to account over British support for the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has called a full-scale "Opposition Day" Commons debate into atrocities committed by all sides in the civil war in Yemen.

Corbyn's intervention comes in the wake of a recent Saudi coalition attack on a funeral in the Yemeni capital, Sanaa, which killed more than 140 mourners. 

Corbyn has ordered the debate as the blanket support offered by Britain and America for Saudi Arabia has become hard to defend in the face of repeated atrocities apparently carried out by the Saudi-led coalition. 

The shadow foreign secretary, Emily Thornberry, will use the debate to demand an independent investigation into violations of international humanitarian law by all sides in the Yemen conflict. 

It will, however, stop short of demanding a halt to British arms sales to Saudi Arabia. Britain has sold billions of dollars of weapons to Saudi Arabia as the Yemen war has raged.

The Campaign Against the Arms Trade has won the right for a judicial review of sales to Saudi Arabia, with a hearing expected in February.

A spokesman for Thornberry told MEE that the purpose of the debate was to put the government on the spot for its reliance on the Saudis themselves to investigate atrocities against civilians.

He said that out of more than one thousand incidents of air strikes on civilian sites, the Saudis have completed reports on just nine.

Speaking on the BBC’s Daily Politics last week, the Middle East minister, Tobias Ellwood, said that the Saudi-led coalition air attack on the Sanaa funeral was a case of "deliberate error" and a "gross breach of standard operating procedure".

A Labour Party spokesman said Elwood's remarks "raised the question of how many other deliberate errors have been going on".

Labour is also likely to try to expose the Tory double standards over Yemen at a time ministers have repeatedly condemned Russian air attacks in the northern Syrian city of Aleppo. 

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