Boris Johnson urged to back probe into international law violations in Yemen

It comes after Mr Johnson refused to block UK arms sales to Saudi Arabia which is leading a bombing campaign in the country

A crater caused by a Saudi-led coalition air strike in August that hit a hospital yard in Hajjah province REUTERs

Joe Watts - Political Editor 

Boris Johnson has been urged by two senior MPs to back an independent probe into whether international law has been violated during the Yemen conflict.
The Commons committee chairs told the Foreign Secretary the matter was urgent in the light of a growing death toll in the country, where Saudi Arabian forces have led an intense bombing campaign.
It comes after Mr Johnson controversially refused to block UK arms sales to Saudi Arabia, saying it was not clear the state’s military action had breached laws.
Chris White, chairman of the Committees on Arms Export Controls, and International Development Committee Chair Stephen Twigg said an inquiry was needed because almost 7,000 people have died in the Yemen conflict, including some 1,100 children.
Their letter to Mr Johnson said: “We urge you to seize this opportunity and support the establishment of an international, independent mechanism under the auspices of the UN.
“Hopefully this will serve to deter future violations of international humanitarian law as well as providing independent and conclusive evidence in relation to allegations that have been levelled at both sides of the conflict.”
They said the international community could not be sure inquiries already set up by Saudi Arabia and Yemen were “transparent” and “credible”.
A Saudi-led air campaign was launched in March last year and aimed to put down a rebellion by Houthis, a Shia Muslim minority from the north of the country, who have backing from Iran.
There have been reports that the bombardment has hit schools and hospitals, but the UK has continued military exports, licensing arms sales of £3.3bn according to the Campaign Against Arms Trade.
Earlier this month, Mr Johnson said the test of continued arms exports is “whether those weapons might be used in a commission of a serious breach of international humanitarian law”.
He then went on to say that “having regard to all the information available to us, we assess this test has not been met.”
The Committees on Arms Export Controls were recently left split after MPs on them were unable to agree what to do about the sale of British weapons to Saudi Arabia. 
A Foreign Office spokeswoman said: “It is important that Saudi Arabia in the first instance conducts thorough and conclusive investigations into incidents where it is alleged that international humanitarian law has been breached.
“They have the best insight into their own military procedures and will be able to conduct the most thorough and conclusive investigations.
“It will also allow the country to really understand what went wrong and apply the lessons learnt in the best possible way. This is the standard we set ourselves and our allies.”

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