Government 'in denial' about devastating impact of arms sales

By agency reporter
November 18, 2016

The UK government has rejected calls from the House of Commons committees on Business, Innovation & Skills and International Development to suspend arms exports to Saudi Arabia for use in Yemen.

Under point 20 of its response to the committees, the government said: "We disagree with this recommendation. The Government is confident in its robust case-by-case assessment and is satisfied that extant licences for Saudi Arabia are compliant with the UK’s export licensing criteria.” The joint response was issued by Liam Fox, Boris Johnson, Priti Patel and Michael Fallon.

Andrew Smith of Campaign Against Arms Trade said: "The government is in denial about the devastating impact of the Saudi-led bombardment and its own complicity in it. This is a very weak rand shameful response and makes clear that arms company profits are being prioritised over the human rights and lives of Yemeni people.

"The evidence from the UN, the House of Commons committees and others has been overwhelming, yet the government has refused to act. We are always being told UK arms export controls are rigorous and robust, but this shows nothing could be further from the truth."

The report comes at a time when the UK's largest arms company, BAE Systems, has reportedly entered talks to sell even more fighter jets to Saudi Arabia. Its efforts are being supported by the UK government.

Since the bombing campaign began last March, the UK has licensed £3.3 billion worth of arms to Saudi Arabia, including:

  • £2.2 billion worth of ML10 licences (Aircraft, helicopters, drones)
  • £1.1 billion worth of ML4 licences (Grenades, bombs, missiles, countermeasures)
  • £430,000 worth of ML6 licences (Armoured vehicles, tanks)

Andrew Smith continued: "Boris Johnson, Theresa May and their colleagues could stop the arms sales right now, but instead they are offering uncritical military and political support while helping arms companies like BAE to sell even more weapons. If 10,000 deaths, the destruction of valuable infrastructure and serious allegations of war crimes are not enough, then what will it take for the UK to finally stop arming the Saudi regime?"

UK arms sales to Saudi Arabia are currently subject to a judicial review, following an application by CAAT. The claim calls on the government to suspend all extant licences and stop issuing further arms export licences to Saudi Arabia for use in Yemen while it holds a full review into if the exports are compatible with UK and EU legislation. A three day review will take place in front of two judges between 07-09 February 2017..

* Read the government's response to the Business, Innovation & Skills and International Development committees here

*Campaign Against Arms Trade https://www.caat.org.uk/

[Ekk/4]

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