UK authorised $1.9bn of arms gross sales to Saudi Arabia since ban lifted | Battle Information
The UK approved nearly £ 1.4 billion (US $ 1.9 billion) in arms exports to Saudi Arabia between July and September last year after a ban on arms sales in the Gulf country was lifted – a move the critics described the continuation of the war in Yemen as “immoral”.
The UK’s Department of International Trade released the figures on Tuesday days after new US President Joe Biden said his country was ending all support for “offensive operations” by a Saudi-led military coalition against Yemen’s Houthi Rebel fights, including “relevant arms sales”.
The announcement increasingly led Britain – the US’s main ally – to do the same, but British officials have so far refused to follow suit.
The UK’s previous moratorium on arms sales to Saudi Arabia went into effect in June 2019 after the High Court issued a landmark decision forcing officials to suspend sales over concerns that the arms were in violation of humanitarian law International law would be used.
A subsequent government review revealed that there had been “isolated incidents” of possible violations by the Saudi armed forces in Yemen, but “no clear risk” of future serious violations. In July 2020, officials announced that following the results of the review, Britain would resume arms sales to Saudi Arabia – its largest arms buyer.
In the three months following the restart, the UK approved arms exports worth £ 1.39 billion ($ 1.9 billion), according to the government. The weapons category, including missiles and bombs, accounted for £ 1.36 billion ($ 1.88 billion) of sales, although the figures did not indicate which manufacturers had received export permits.
Anti-arms activists rated the sales “shocking” and said the numbers “illustrate the UK government’s determination to continue to supply arms at all costs”.
“British-made weapons have played a devastating role in the Saudi-led attacks on Yemen and the humanitarian crisis they caused. However, the UK government has done everything possible to keep arms sales going,” said Sarah Waldron, The spokeswoman for The Campaign Against the Arms Trade (CAAT) said in a statement on Tuesday.
“Now even the US is curbing its arms sales while the British government continues to fuel the war,” said Waldron of CAAT. “You must now change course and work to support a meaningful peace.”
Martin Butcher, conflict adviser for the international aid group Oxfam, said British politicians had “once again … brought profit before Yemeni lives” and classified the arms sales documented on Tuesday as “immoral”.
“Arms exports to Saudi Arabia should stop immediately,” Butcher said in a statement. “Yemen is experiencing the largest humanitarian crisis in the world. Two-thirds of the population are dependent on food aid, and yet people benefit from the misery caused by these arms sales.”
Al Jazeera turned to the Ministry of International Trade to comment on the criticism directed against the government. In response, a spokesman said the UK has “one of the most comprehensive export control systems in the world”.
“The government takes its export responsibility seriously and evaluates all export licenses strictly according to strict licensing criteria,” said the spokesman. “We will not issue export licenses if this is not compatible with these criteria.”
The conflict in Yemen began in 2014 when the Houthis conquered large parts of the country, including the capital Sanaa.
The war escalated in March 2015 when the Saudi Arabia-led coalition intervened to restore President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi’s government.
The coalition was supported by several Western powers, including Great Britain and the US. As of March 2015, the UK has approved arms sales of £ 6.8 billion (US $ 9.3 billion) to Saudi Arabia, according to CAAT.
Both sides of the Yemen conflict have since been charged with war crimes during fighting, in which more than 110,000 people have been killed to date, including more than 12,500 civilians, according to the Armed Conflict Location and Event Data project.
Peace talks to resolve the conflict have stalled since the end of 2018, despite United Nations officials repeatedly attempting to revive negotiations and end what has been called the world’s largest humanitarian crisis.
According to the UN, 80 percent of the 30 million people in Yemen depend on humanitarian aid to survive.