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UK Government must be held accountable for children killed during Saudi Arabia's Yemen bombing, says Labour

Jeremy Corbyn's spokesman said the result of British support had been 'extensive targeting of civilian infrastructure and very large numbers of civilian casualties'

Joe Watts
Political Editor
Wednesday 07 March 2018 15:32 GMT
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Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn believes UK ministers should be held accountable for children's deaths
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn believes UK ministers should be held accountable for children's deaths (Getty)

British ministers should be held accountable for “very large numbers of children” who have been killed and injured during Saudi Arabia’s bombing campaign in Yemen, Labour has said.

Jeremy Corbyn said the Government bore responsibility for deploying British personnel to help the Saudi air force target attacks, which have seen civilian areas, schools and hospitals hit.

The Labour leader himself told the House of Commons that the UK was “directing” the conflict in the Gulf state and “colluding” in war crimes, as the issue flared up on the arrival of Saudia Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman in London on Wednesday.

Ministers argued that British personnel were trying to help Saudi forces avoid civilian casualties, and Theresa May went further to argue intelligence cooperation with the Saudi regime had helped save British lives.

Speaking after a clash at Prime Minister’s Questions, Mr Corbyn’s spokesman said: “This Government is responsible for the decisions that are being 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 the targeting of aerial operations in Yemen.

“The consequence of that has been significant and extensive of targeting of civilian infrastructure and very large numbers of civilian casualties, including very large numbers of children.”

Jeremy Corbyn accuses UK of 'directing' war in Yemen

Saying that there had “clearly” been evidence of war crimes by Saudi forces, Mr Corbyn’s spokesman went on to say: “The British Government has responsibility for what is taking place in its support for the Saudi campaign – it’s British ministers who should be held accountable for that.”

The British Government has responsibility for what is taking place in its support for the Saudi campaign – it’s British ministers who should be held accountable for that

Jeremy Corbyn’s spokesman

Moments earlier in the Commons, the Labour leader demanded the Government suspend its support for the war and arms sales to the Saudi Government.

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 United Nations says is evidence of war crimes.”

Ms May mounted a staunch defence of the relationship which, through intelligence saving, “has saved the lives potentially of hundreds of people in this country”.

Devastation on the ground in Yemen displayed by International Rescue Committee in shocking video

The Saudi action in Yemen was at the request of a legitimate government, backed by the UN security council and “as such we support it”, she said.

And she added: “Where there are allegations that activity has taken place that is not in line with international humanitarian law, they investigate that and they learn the lessons from it.”

Foreign Office minister Alistair Burt also hit back, saying: “It’s just not true that they are directing the war in Yemen.

“They have given advice in relation to how targeting is done, to make sure that civilians are not involved.”

Prince Salman will be received at Buckingham Palace at the start of his trip, and will have lunch with the Queen before dinner with the Prince of Wales and the Duke of Cambridge.

The Crown Prince has also been granted rare access to a briefing on foreign policy issues, including Yemen, by national security officials.

On Thursday, he will head to Chequers for talks and a private dinner with the PM that will focus on foreign policy issues, including Yemen and Iran. On Friday, he will meet Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson for talks.

It comes as the London Stock Exchange also vies for the Saudi Aramco oil company to be listed in the capital, in what has been described as the biggest flotation in history.

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