LONDON, UK – Pressure is building on Britain to stop arms sales to Saudi Arabia.
At the same time the United States and Britain are putting pressure on Saudi Arabia and its allies to end the conflict in Yemen.
At the heart of both pressure-cookers in fact is the Yemen war, the accelerating casualty toll, and the blossoming humanitarian situation.
The very reason activists are opposing the arms sales is the alleged use of those arms on a conflict destroying hundreds of thousands of lives of innocent civilians.
A landmark legal case by Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT), which sought to establish Britain is breaking its own arms export licensing criteria by continuing to sell weapons to Saudi Arabia, despite the clear risk the weapons would be used ‘to commit serious violations of international humanitarian law violations in Yemen,’ was lost when it went before the High Court in London last year.
The case however is on appeal, and will be before the courts again in April next year.
On Monday it was announced three human rights organisations would join as interested parties to the case. These are Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, and RW UK.
“The October 2 murder of Jamal Khashoggi inside the Saudi consulate only highlights the government’s lack of credible investigations and accountability demonstrated during the years-long Saudi-led military campaign in Yemen,” Clive Baldwin, senior legal adviser at Human Rights Watch said Monday.
“The UK has contributed through its arms sales to a campaign that has killed or wounded thousands of civilians and brought the country to the brink of disaster.”
Since the coalition began its aerial campaign in Yemen in 2015, the UK has licensed at least £4.7 billion (about US$6.1 billion) worth of arms sales to Saudi Arabia. Human Rights Watch researchers say they have regularly visited Yemen and documented the use of weapons, including weapons made in the UK, in strikes that appear to be unlawful.
Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, the UN, and Yemeni rights groups have repeatedly documented attacks by the Saudi-led coalition, some of which, they say, are most likely war crimes, that have hit markets, schools, hospitals, and homes, and killed thousands of civilians.
Since 2016, Human Rights Watch has called for all countries to end arms sales to Saudi Arabia until the Saudi-led coalition ends its attacks and credibly investigates those that have already occurred.
A growing number of European countries have halted sales of weapons to Saudi Arabia, including Germany, the Netherlands, and Austria. On October 25, the European Parliament called for a common EU position banning arms sales to Saudi Arabia.
‘On August 9, a Saudi-led coalition airstrike killed at least 26 children and wounded at least nineteen more in or near a school bus in the busy Dhahyan market, in northern Yemen. The United Nations reported that on October 24, the coalition struck a vegetable packaging facility and killed 21 civilians, the latest in a series of attacks on civilian structures and yet another blow to the country’s precarious economy. The Houthi armed group, which controls much of the northern Yemen and is the target of the Saudi-led coalition’s attacks, has also committed serious violations of the laws of war, including laying antipersonnel landmines, recruiting children, and taking civilians hostage and torturing them,’ Human Rights Watch said in a statement published on Monday.
“The UK should not wait for the court hearing to finally stop selling weapons to Saudi Arabia,” Baldwin said. “It should stop selling weapons now until Saudi Arabia ends unlawful attacks and holds war criminals accountable.”