UK complicit in the destruction of Yemen say campaigners

By agency reporter
March 28, 2017

The UK has licensed over £3.3 billion of arms to Saudi Arabia since the beginning of a bombing campaign intended to influence the outcome of the civil conflict in Yemen. It has created a humanitarian catastrophe.  Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT) is awaiting verdict of legal action against arms exports being used by the Saudi regime in Yemen

The morning of March 26 marked two years since the Saudi-led bombardment of Yemen began. Since then, 10,000 people have been killed and millions have been left without access to vital infrastructure, clean water or electricity. An estimated 17 million people are food insecure and require urgent humanitarian assistance.

For decades now, Saudi Arabia has been by far the largest buyer of UK arms. The Royal Saudi Air Force is using UK licensed fighter jets, bombs and missiles in its ongoing bombardment of Yemen.

Since the bombing of Yemen began in March 2015, the UK has licensed:

  • £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)

These weapons have underpinned an intimate political and military relationship, causing the UK to make excuses and look the other way while atrocities have taken place, says CAAT. They have also had devastating consequences in their own right, with Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch among those that have linked UK bombs to attacks on civilian infrastructure.

Andrew Smith of Campaign against Arms Trade said: "For two years now, Saudi forces have unleashed a brutal humanitarian catastrophe on the people of Yemen. The response from Whitehall has been to keep arming and supporting the Saudi regime, irrespective of the destruction it has caused. Ten thousand people have been killed, yet the message being sent out is that their lives are less important than profits for arms companies.

The legality of these arms sales is currently the subject of a Judicial Review, following an application by Campaign Against Arms Trade. 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. The verdict is still pending.

Andrew Smith concluded: "We are always being told that the UK enjoys a strong influence over Saudi Arabia. If that is true then it needs to use it to call and work for a meaningful and lasting ceasefire. It must also end its own complicity and stop the arms sales. Forging lasting peace from a conflict zone is never easy, but as long as governments like the UK continue to prioritise arms company interests then it will be civilians who pay the price."

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

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