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War Crimes: White Phosphorus

Foreign and Commonwealth Office written question – answered on 4th November 2019.

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Photo of Tom Brake Tom Brake Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Exiting the European Union), Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Duchy of Lancaster)

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, what steps the Government is taking to help prevent war crimes involving white phosphorus; and what assessment he has made of potential sanctions that the Government could put in place against countries using white phosphorus as a chemical weapon.

Photo of Andrew Murrison Andrew Murrison Minister of State (Foreign and Commonwealth Office) (Joint with the Department for International Development)

The UK is committed to preventing mass atrocities, including war crimes, using instruments such as diplomatic engagement, development and programmatic support, and defence and policing tools. White phosphorus is not a chemical weapon or a prohibited substance in itself, but the way it is used may be. Reports that white phosphorus has been used intentionally against civilians are extremely worrying as it would be contrary to international humanitarian law. It is important that the full facts are established. We will continue to call on all parties to uphold international humanitarian law, which prohibits attacks against civilians irrespective of the weapon used.

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