UK Arms Sales Condemned After 'Record Number' Of Child Casualties

UK Arms Sales Condemned After ‘Record Number’ Of Child Casualties

Thousands of children were killed or maimed in armed conflict last year prompting fresh criticism of the UK Government’s weapons dealing. 

More than 24,000 “grave violations” were committed against children in 2018, according to a United Nations report published last month.

Among the countries named and shamed are the Saudi Arabia-led coalition fighting in Yemen, and Israel – both of whom are major buyers of UK-manufactured weaponry.

This crisis would not be possible without the work of arms dealers and the support of complicit governments such the the UK.

Andrew Smith, Campaign Against The Arms Trade

“This crisis would not be possible without the work of arms dealers and the support of complicit governments such the the UK,” Andrew Smith from the Campaign Against the Arms Trade (CAAT), told Rights Info.

“Arms sales can never be apolitical. When you sell them you provide political military support for the buyers.

“When arms are sold to regimes around the world they can be used in abuse and attacks for years to come.

“If you look at the war in Yemen – the Saudi forces are using using UK made fighter jets, dropping UK made bombs and firing UK made missiles. It has created the worst humanitarian crisis in the world.”

UN figures show that 1,689 children were killed or maimed in Yemen last year, the third highest number of casualties.

Afghanistan suffered the highest number of child casualties in 2018, at 3,062, followed by Syria (1,854).

In Yemen, UN experts attributes almost half of all child casualties in to the Saudi-led Coalition (729) of which 684 were due to airstrikes.

DIT Records ‘Best Ever Year’ For UK Arms Sales

The UK’s Department for International Trade (DIT) reported its “best year ever” for British arms exports last year, winning a defence order worth £14 billion. This makes it the world’s second largest arms exporter after the United States.

In June, the UK court of appeal determined that the British Government acted unlawfully in allowing the sale of weapons to Riyadh because they could have been used in the war in Yemen.

However, the ruling does not stop Britain’s arms exports to Saudi Arabia but means that issuing of new licensing will be suspended.

I am deeply concerned by the scale and severity of the grave violations committed against children in 2018.

UN general secretary Antonio Guterres

The UN’s report also records verified incidences of sexual violence, injury, enslavement against children and the recruitment of child soldiers in 19 countries – including Somalia, Myanmar, India, Nigeria and Thailand.

“I am deeply concerned by the scale and severity of the grave violations committed against children in 2018,” UN general secretary Antonio Guterres writes in the report, noting a record high number of child casualties and the increase in the number of violations attributed to international forces.

“I call upon all parties to immediately end and take all necessary measures to prevent such grave violations,” he added.

A UK Government spokesperson told the investigative news site The Ferret: “The government takes its export control responsibilities very seriously.

“A licence will not be issued, to Saudi Arabia or any other destination, if to do so would be inconsistent with any provision of the Consolidated EU and National Arms Export Licensing Criteria.

“The UK operates one of the most robust export control regimes in the world and we keep our defence exports to Saudi Arabia under careful and continual review.”

The Department of International Trade has been contacted for further comment.

Featured Image Credit: Campaign Against The Arms Trade

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About the Author

Aaron Walawalkar

News and Digital Editor
Aaron is an NCTJ-accredited multimedia journalist focussing on human rights. His extensive reporting on rough sleeping in east London has been nominated for multiple awards. He has worked for regional and national newspapers and produced illustrations, infographics and videos for humanitarian organisation RedR UK. View all posts by Aaron Walawalkar.
UK Arms Sales Condemned After ‘Record Number’ Of Child Casualties
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