11) BILLIONS FROM SAUDI WAR CRIMES
By Andrew Smith, Morning Star (
The High Court in
On February 7-9, following an application by Campaign Against
Arms Trade (CAAT), judges examined the legality of arms exports to
For almost two years now, Saudi forces have inflicted a brutal and devastating
bombing campaign on the people of
The appalling consequences have been condemned by the United Nations, the European Parliament, and major aid agencies on the ground, with the Red Cross warning that the country has been left on the edge of famine.
A harrowing report from UNICEF has found that one child is dying every 10
minutes because of malnutrition, diarrhoea, and
respiratory-tract infections in
Right at the outset of the bombing,
Despite the destruction, and despite its appalling human rights record at home,
Last month, Saudi forces even admitted to using British-made cluster bombs, one of the cruellest and deadliest weapons that can be used in warfare. When bombs are dropped they open up in mid-air to release hundreds of sub-munitions. Their impact is indiscriminate. Anybody within the striking area is very likely to be killed or seriously injured.
The bombs were exported in 1988, but the lifespan of weapons is very often longer than that of the political situation they are bought in. How will the billions of pounds’ worth of weapons being sold now be used and who will they be used against?
If cluster bombs are not considered beyond the pale by the Saudi military, then what is the likelihood that its personnel are doing everything in their power to avoid civilian casualties? It’s not just the bombs that are deadly; it is the mindset which allows their use in the first place.
British arms export law is very clear. It says that licenses for military
equipment should not be granted if there is a “clear risk” that it “might” be
used in a serious violation of international humanitarian law. By any
reasonable interpretation, these criteria should definitely prohibit all arms
Of course the relationship is nothing new and the problem is institutional rather than party-political. For decades now successive British governments of all political colours have armed and uncritically supported the Saudi regime.
In 2006, we saw former Prime Minister Tony Blair intervening to stop a
corruption investigation into arms deals between
One outcome of this cosy partnership has been a high level of integration between British and Saudi military programs. There are around 240 British Ministry of Defence civil servants and military personnel working to support the contracts through the Ministry of Defence Saudi Armed Forces Program and the Saudi Arabia National Guard Communications Project.
The political consensus seems to be shifting though, with the Labour, SNP and Liberal Democrat front benches – and many Tory backbench legislators – all calling for arms sales to be suspended while an independent investigation into their legality takes place. This has gone a long way in shifting the terms of the debate.
But, even if it is taken up, it can not be enough unless it is complemented by an end to future arms sales and a meaningful change in foreign policy.
Regardless of the outcome in court, it is already clear how weak and broken
British arms export controls are. A brutal dictatorship has created a humanitarian
catastrophe, killed thousands of civilians, and flouted international law and
Instead of following its own rules on arms sales, the government has prioritised arms company profits over human rights. If that’s not enough to stop arms sales, then what more would it take?
above article is from the February 15-28, 2017, issue of People's