Canada for the first time is being publicly named as one of the countries helping fuel the war in Yemen by a panel of independent experts monitoring the conflict for the United Nations and investigating possible war crimes by the combatants, including Saudi Arabia.
In a report for the period ending in June, 2020, the panel included Canada on a list of countries selling arms to those waging the conflict in Yemen: a coalition led by Saudi Arabia, and Houthi rebels backed by Iran.
The countries identified in the report, which also include the United States, Britain and France, “continued their support of parties to the conflict including through arms transfers, thereby helping to perpetuate the conflict,” the report said. It was the third report issued so far by the UN Human Rights Council’s panel on Yemen.
Ardi Imseis, a professor of law at Queen’s University and a member of the panel, said at a news conference on the report that Canada was added to the list of named countries because of an increase in arms sales in 2019.
“We therefore reiterate our call for states to stop transferring arms to the parties to the conflict,” he said.
Canadian shipments of military goods to Saudi Arabia hit a record high in 2019, almost entirely owing to a $14-billion contract brokered by a federal Crown corporation to sell light armoured vehicles (LAVs) to the kingdom. Canada exported nearly $2.9-billion worth of military equipment to Saudi Arabia last year, nearly all of it LAVs made in London, Ont., by a subsidiary of U.S. defence contractor General Dynamics Corp.
Prof. Imseis urged the Canadian government to reconsider arms sales to Saudi Arabia.
“Given Canada’s historical commitment to the rules-based international order, including the need to ensure protection of civilians in armed conflict, it is imperative that Ottawa review its ongoing flow of arms to parties to the conflict, namely Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates,” he said in a statement to The Globe and Mail.
“Providing the instruments of war to any side in the Yemen conflict will only serve an enabling function, thereby continuing the conflict to the great detriment of civilians in Yemen.”
Canadian-made LAVs operated by Saudi soldiers have been filmed in skirmishes across the Saudi Arabian-Yemeni border