As Prime Minister Theresa May visits Saudi Arabia today and will reportedly raise the issue of the Saudi blockade and humanitarian crisis in Yemen with Saudi authorities, Greens have repeated a call for a ban on all arms exports to the country.
The UK is the second largest arms exporter to Saudi Arabia and 48% of all UK arms exports were to the country between 2012 and 2016. In the first half of this year, British sales of military equipment to Saudi Arabia topped £1.1bn, a steep increase from last year.
“Theresa May has said she will raise the issue of the Saudi blockade on Yemen and the appalling human suffering that this is causing. I wonder if this will be before or after discussions about shoring-up the grotesque trade in arms to the brutal Saudi regime.”
“The eye-watering statistics of UK arms sales to Saudi Arabia expose May’s declarations of concern for the suffering of the Yemeni people as blatant hypocrisy. It is utterly shameful that this trade be allowed to continue and as Greens we call on the Prime Minister to finally act in the only morally responsible way possible and stop exporting arms to Saudi Arabia.”
A letter received this week by Molly from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) suggested that the Saudi authorities themselves were best placed to investigate breaches of International Humanitarian Law because they ‘have the best insight into their own military procedures’. Jean Lambert, Green MEP for London and member of the European Parliament’s Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs Committee, dismissed such a suggestion:
“If the Government is serious about investigating Saudi’s violations of International Humanitarian Law, I recommend it invites an independent body – not the Saudis – to do so. The suggestion that the Saudis investigate their own conduct is simply not credible any more than Myanmar investigating its own conduct concerning the Rohingya. Self-investigation will not bring justice to the families of the 10,000 plus people in Yemen who have lost their lives as a result of this terrible conflict.”
Keith Taylor, Green MEP for the South East of England, concluded:
“Last month the Defence Secretary said it was unhelpful to keep highlighting Saudi war crimes and human rights’ abuses because it might damage our ability to sell weapons. Theresa May calling out the Saudi’s human rights abuses is nothing but heinous hypocrisy if she doesn’t also halt UK weapons sales. This is a government more concerned with the profit margins of arms dealers than the harrowing cost of the human suffering they are facilitating. It is unforgivable.”
In September the European Parliament voted in favour of a Green report, challenging the Commission to introduce an embargo on arms exports to Saudi Arabia. The presidents of the Green, Socialist and Liberal groups in the Parliament have also written to the EU representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, asking her to put forward a proposal for such a ban to the European Council.