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Anti-war activists force Saudi ‘weapons’ ship to reroute again

Activists hand a banner reading 'No Weapons beyond this point' to protest against a Saudi cargo ship suspected of carrying weapons, 5 February 2020
A banner reading 'No weapons beyond this point' to protest against a Saudi cargo ship suspected of carrying weapons at Tilbury docks, 5 February 2020 [CAAT Universities/Twitter]

An infamous Saudi cargo ship suspected of carrying weapons to be used in the war in Yemen has been forced to alter its route more than once, after facing protests by anti-war activists in several European ports. The Bahri Yanbu was previously accused of loading weapons destined for the UAE which were loaded whilst it made an unscheduled stop at Santander in northern Spain last year.

Last month the Bahri Yanbu crossed the wars and was scheduled to dock in five European ports starting in Bremerhaven, Germany on 30 January. However activists with Amnesty International’s support went to court and successfully blocked the vessel from docking. Ahead of its next stop in Antwerp in Belgium, three Belgian NGOs launched a preliminary injunction against the government demanding that Belgian freezes its arms trade to Saudi.

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Having been prevented from docking in Antwerp by “citizen weapons inspectors”, the ship moved onto the UK, where it was due to dock in Tilbury on Wednesday. However protestors were awaiting its arrival.

The vessel arrived “under the cover of darkness” in a “cloak and dagger” stop according to Oliver Sprague, Amnesty International UK arms control director. As the ship approached UK waters, protestors raised banners declaring “No weapons beyond this point” and “stop arming Saudi”.

Local news site Your Thurrock reported that Andrew Smith of Campaign Against the Arms Trade said: “We have no doubt that this ship was expected to dock in the UK, and the paper trail is pointing to Tilbury.”

“There are clearly important questions for the government to answer about this ship and what may be on it. If the ship has changed route then when was that decided, and why?”

Kent Online confirmed that the Bahri Yanbu instead ended up in Sheerness of the Isle of Sheppey, off the north coast of Kent. It then sailed onto the French port of Cherbourg yesterday afternoon, which has so far been the only stop that was officially scheduled. At least 17 NGOs wrote an open letter to French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe to demand guarantees that French weapons will not be loaded onto the vessel that could be used against Yemeni civilians.

READ: Amnesty: Saudi secret counter-terror court used to supress dissent

Nevertheless, about 100 protestors turned out against the ship’s docking holding signs that read “War crimes in Yemen” and “Made in France”.

Although the next destination was Genoa, Italy, the ship has made another detour and is now on route to the port of Bilbao, Spain. Last year dockworkers in Genova went on strike in protest and refused the same ship entry. It will likely meet protests in the Spanish port as the Bahri Abha did in December of last year.

The on-going war in Yemen is now in its fifth year has claimed more than 100,000 lives and has left more than 17 million people on the brink of famine, with the UN calling it the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.

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BelgiumEurope & RussiaMiddle EastNewsSaudi ArabiaSpainUKYemen
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