UK Licensed $7.6bn Worth of Arms to Saudi-Led Coalition amid Yemen Aggression
Campaign Against the Arms Trade (CAAT) reported that the UK government licensed $7.6bn worth of arms to the members of the Saudi-led coalition that has been waging a brutal war against Yemen since 2015.
According to new government statistics, since March 2015 the UK has licensed £5.3bn worth of arms to Saudi Arabia, £657m to the United Arab Emirates, £85m to Egypt, £72m to Bahrain, and £40m worth to Kuwait, the Middle East Eye Net reported.
The UK also licensed £142m worth of arms to Qatar prior to its withdrawal from the coalition in 2017.
Saudi Arabia and a number of its regional allies launched a devastating military campaign against Yemen in March 2015, with the aim of bringing the government of Hadi back to power and crushing the country’s Houthi Ansarullah movement.
The US-based Armed Conflict Location and Event Data Project (ACLED), a nonprofit conflict-research organization, estimates that the Saudi-led war has claimed the lives of over 60,000 Yemenis since January 2016.
The Saudi-led war has also taken a heavy toll on the country’s infrastructure, destroying hospitals, schools, and factories. The UN has already said that a record 22.2 million Yemenis are in dire need of food, including 8.4 million threatened by severe hunger. According to the world body, Yemen is suffering from the most severe famine in more than 100 years.
“Thousands of people have been killed in the Saudi-led bombardment of Yemen, but that has done nothing to deter the arms dealers,” Andrew Smith of CAAT said in a statement.
“The bombing has created the worst humanitarian crisis in the world, and it wouldn’t have been possible without the complicity and support of Downing Street. These arms sales are immoral and illegal.”
The UK Court of Appeal ruled in June that British arms sales to Saudi Arabia were unlawful because the government had illegally approved the sales without properly assessing the risk to civilians.
The government was ordered by the court not to approve any new licences and to retake decisions on current licences.
Last Thursday, legal and human rights activists submitted evidence to the UK government that the Saudi-led coalition had covered up human rights abuses in Yemen.
The report said the coalition had “whitewashed significant civilian harm” and that any internal Saudi investigations into allegations had not been credible despite the UK relying on such investigations to justify its sales of weapons to the Gulf kingdom.
Using witness interviews and photographic evidence, the report by The Global Legal Action Network (GLAN) and Yemeni group Mwatana for Human Rights placed blame on the coalition for air strikes it had claimed it was not responsible for and accused it of disproportionate use of force that harmed civilians.
“This evidence will assist the UK government in deciding whether to grant further arms sales licenses for Saudi Arabia,” GLAN Director Gearoid O Cuinn said in a joint statement with Mwatana.
“They can either continue to rely on discredited Saudi/UAE-led coalition assurances or listen to those who have painstakingly documented the constant civilian deaths caused by coalition air strikes.”