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UK ‘complicit’ in humanitarian disaster through $7.6bn arms sales to Saudi    

August 22, 2019 at 1:47 pm

Yemeni women receive treatment for cholera in Sanaa, Yemen on 10 March 2019 [Mohammed Hamoud/Anadolu Agency]

The worst humanitarian crises since the Second World War would not have been possible without the complicity of the UK say campaign groups in a report highlighting the Conservative government’s licencing of billions of pounds worth of weapons to Saudi Arabia since the start of the Yemen war.

Figures published by Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT) reveal that the UK has licensed $7.6 billion worth of arms to Saudi-led forces in first four years of bombing in Yemen. The controversial sale of weapons has been the subject of long court battle and in June the Court of Appeal ruled that arms exports to Saudi was unlawful.

Despite losing in court the UK government is said to have extended an invitation to Riyadh and other coalition members to London next month for one of the world’s biggest arms fair.

In addition to the lucrative arms deal with the Saudis, billions more of British made weapons have made their way into the hands of some of the most brutal regimes in the region, which is experiencing a period of unprecedented instability and chaos.

READ: The UAE remains the most influential player in Yemen, despite its troop withdrawal

The figures include: $798 million to United Arab Emirates (UAE); $103 million to Egypt; $87 million to Bahrain; $172 million Qatar prior to it pulling out of the Saudi-led coalition in June 2017.

According to the United Nations, the Saudi led bombing has created the worst humanitarian crisis in the world. UK-made fighter jets, bombs and missiles are said to have played a central role in the bombing.

A wrecked vehicle is seen after a car exploded in Aden, Yemen on 1 August 2019 [Wael Shaif Thabet/Anadolu Agency]

A wrecked vehicle is seen after a car exploded in Aden, Yemen on 1 August 2019 [Wael Shaif Thabet/Anadolu Agency]

CAAT said the real total was “likely to be a great deal higher” because “most bombs and missiles used by Saudi forces being licensed via the opaque and secretive Open Licence system.”

Andrew Smith, spokesperson for CAAT said: “Thousands of people have been killed in the Saudi-led bombardment of Yemen, but that has done nothing to deter the arms dealers. The bombing has created the worst humanitarian crisis in the world, and it wouldn’t have been possible without the complicity and support of Downing Street. These arms sales are immoral and illegal.”

It is disgraceful that the Government has invited the Saudi military and other Coalition members to London to buy even more weapons. This only goes to show that no matter how dire the humanitarian crisis in Yemen has become, the Government will continue to prioritise arms sales over the rights and lives of Yemeni people.

Questions over the UK’s attitude towards human rights were also raised last month following revelations that it had sold $810 million in arms to Saudi after the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi. The deal was uncovered in newly released arms export statistics and is thought to have taken place at a time when the UK government said that it condemned the murder of the Washington Post journalist “in the strongest possible terms”.

READ: Yemen’s war cut a father’s route to work, now his toddler starves