‘Are embedded British soldiers helping Saudi attack Yemen?’ asks Reprieve
Human rights activists fear British military personnel could be embedded with Saudi Arabian allies who are bombing Yemen after receiving opaque responses from the Ministry of Defence (MoD).
Concerns have been raised by the charity Reprieve, which is best known for its work on post 9/11 torture and rendition, after the MoD published figures detailing the number of UK military personnel embedded around the world.
The war in Yemen, between Shia Houthi rebels and Saudi-backed forces, is not one the UK is officially involved in. However, the theocratic Saudi kingdom is a close regional ally of Britain.
Thousands have been killed, tens of thousands injured and up to 2.5 million displaced, according to some reports.
While most of those embedded personnel are in easily identifiable locations – such as in the US, Canada, NATO and the EU member states – nearly 100 personnel are assigned to cryptically titled ‘Coalition HQs’.
Responding to the revelations that 94 members of the UK armed forces are carrying out duties for unknown forces, Jennifer Gibson, a staff attorney at Reprieve, said in a statement: “This is a long way from real transparency. It is impossible to tell what operations or even what countries these personnel are active in, making this information almost worthless.”
Gibson said the terms used were “hopelessly vague” and asked “what, for example, are the ‘coalition HQs’ where nearly 100 UK personnel are based?”
“Is this the highly-controversial Saudi-led coalition in Yemen, the long-standing coalition in Afghanistan, the coalition in Iraq and Syria, or another we don’t know about?”
Gibson said the UK is entitled to use military force, but that “parliament and the public deserve to know at the very least which wars we are sending our troops into and under whose command.”
It emerged in July that UK aircrews embedded with foreign air forces – allegedly the US and Canadian militaries – had been carrying out combat missions over Syria.
This was despite there being no parliamentary authority for such actions. A vote on bombing targets within Syria has since passed early in December.
In a statement released with the figures on the MoD website, Defence Secretary Michael Fallon said: “Embeds [sic] play an important role in enhancing our national security interests around the world, strengthening our relationships with key allies and developing our own capabilities.
“For operational and personal security reasons the information that can be routinely released is limited,” he added.