British weapons have probably been used by Saudi Arabian military forces intervening in the Yemeni civil war, according to a U.K. Foreign Office minister. Member of parliament Tobias Ellwood made the remarks Thursday during a parliamentary debate in Westminster regarding the war in Yemen, which has been raging for more than seven months, according to Amnesty International.
"I can probably confirm that they [British manufactured arms] probably have been used,” said Ellwood, who is an MP for Bournemouth East and a minister for the Middle East, according to the Amnesty statement. "We sell arms to Saudi Arabia -- they are using weapons systems which we then sell. The more pertinent question is, Are they being used responsibly or not, and that is the more important question and we need to make sure they are used in that responsible matter."
The war in Yemen, which is being primarily fought between Saudi-backed government forces and Iranian-backed Houthi rebels, began in March and has resulted in the death of about 8,000 people and the internal displacement of some 1.4 million more, according to the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre.
— Tobias Ellwood MP (@Tobias_Ellwood) October 7, 2015
The revelation that British weapons may have been used by the Saudi Arabian military comes just days after the U.K. Foreign office was heavily criticized by the House of Commons Select Committee for admitting that it had placed business ahead of human rights, according to a Guardian report from earlier this week.
David Mepham, the U.K. director of Human Rights Watch, said that reducing the priority of human rights would damage the U.K.'s international reputation. "This unwillingness to fully champion rights and fundamental freedoms runs counter to the best traditions in this country's history and weakens the U.K.'s global standing and influence," Said Mepham in an Financial Times report Thursday.
Amnesty had characterized Ellwood’s remarks as “far too relaxed” in its most recent press release and that the U.K. government is too trusting of Saudi Arabia.
"The government has previously said that it simply relies on Saudi Arabia's 'assurances' over the proper use of U.K.-supplied weapons by its forces in Yemen, but how can this ever be good enough?” said Amnesty International U.K. Director Kate Allen in the press release. "Mr. Ellwood only needs to read our recent report on Yemen -- with its evidence of the reckless nature of the Saudi-led coalition's bombing campaign in Yemen -- to set off the alarm bells."