In just three months last year the UK sold more than £1 bn worth of bombs, missiles and rockets to Saudi Arabia. In comparison, during the previous three months only £9 mn worth of sales were made, which shows more than a hundred fold increase in the amount sold- according to an official record of arms export licences quietly released by the Government this week.
This was despite that there are clear indications that the weapons and arms would have been used by Saudi forces in their battle in Yemen. The Saudi Arabian led coalition, aims to push back Houthi rebels and reinstall the exiled government of President Abd Rabbu Mansour Hadi in Yemen. The campaign has been condemned by the United nations who said the region is facing a ‘humanitarian catastrophe’.
The campaign in Yemen has raised concerned that war crimes are being committed and that it violate human rights. Reports also suggest that civilian targets and aid hospitals, including those ran by Medicins Sans Frontieres, have been targeted.
The UN says more than 7,000 people have been killed in Yemen’s war, including nearly 3,000 civilians. The international body has reported that more than 80 percent of the country’s 24 million people require some form of humanitarian assistance.
However, disregarding the evidence, David Cameron has defended the arms sales to Saudi Arabia, describing the kingdom as a key ally in the fight against terrorism.
“Our relationship with Saudi Arabia is important for our own security,” he told BBC Radio 4 . “We’re trying to do everything we can to make sure that the work done by Saudi Arabia is properly targeted and it’s right that we should do that. We’re working with them and others on behalf of the legitimate government of Yemen.”
Human rights groups have condemned the UK’s role in the Yemen war, and in December, it was found that Britain’s exports to Saudi Arabia was breaking national, EU, and international law and policy. Supplying weapons to Saudi Arabia, who are using them in military intervention and in a bombing campaign is violation of the laws. The UK government, however, insists it is not taking part in the campaign.
Amnesty Internationals head of policy and government affairs Allan Hogarth said., “These figures are deeply worrying, showing that the UK continued to dispatch huge amounts of weaponry to Saudi Arabia despite overwhelming evidence that the Saudi war machine was laying waste to Yemeni homes, schools and hospitals… As officials were signing off these sales, hundreds – possibly thousands – of Yemeni civilians were dying in a terrifying barrage of indiscriminate Saudi air strikes in the country.”
In total British weapons companies have sold more than £5.6 bn worth of arms, fighter jets and other military equipment to Riyadh- according to the Campaign against Arms trade.
For the full analysis by Amnesty International describing the laws being broken by the UK click here.