UK military agreement with Qatar criticised over disregard for human rights

By agency reporter
October 19, 2020

Campaign Against Arms Trade has condemned a new military agreement between the UK and Qatar. The agreement was signed on 14 October 2020 by the Defence Secretary Ben Wallace and his Qatari counterpart, on a joint visit to RAF Coningsby. 

The agreement opens the door for a new UK base for the Qatari Emiri Air Force’s recently acquired nine Hawk aircraft, and will bring further integration to UK relations with Qatar. The country is listed as 'not free' by Freedom House, and the record of the Qatari government has been widely condemned by human rights monitoring groups.

Qatar played a military role in the Saudi-led bombing of Yemen until its forces withdrew in 2017 following a breakdown in relations between Qatar and Saudi Arabia. The UK has armed and supported the Saudi-led coalition throughout the war.

Since 2015, the UK has licensed at least £540 million worth of arms to Qatar. This includes:

  • £370 million worth of ML4 licences (Grenades, bombs, missiles, countermeasures)
  • £134 million worth of ML10 licences (Aircraft, helicopters, drones)
  • £6.5 million worth of ML1 licences (small arms)

Campaign Against Arms Trade says the real figures will be a great deal higher, with arms sales being licensed via the opaque and secretive Open Licence system which means that totals are not published.

Andrew Smith of Campaign Against Arms Trade said: "The Qatari authorities have a long and shameful record of repression and abuse. This deal shows a flagrant disregard for human rights and will integrate UK and Qatari foreign policy. This can only serve to fuel repression by strengthening the political and military links between Downing Street and the Qatari royal family.

"With Brexit and COVID upon us, is 'Global Britain' going to continue arming, supporting and empowering human rights abusers around the world? It is long past time to end a hypocritical foreign policy that is based on military intervention and securing arms sales, and instead to focus on the meaningful promotion of human rights and democracy."

* Read the Ministry of Defence announcement here

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

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