Sunday, 24 January 2016 12:11

SNP call for halt on arms sales to Saudi Arabia

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The SNP's Westminster Leader Angus Robertson MP has called on David Cameron to halt arms sales to Saudi Arabia as legal analysis shows the UK Government could be breaking national, EU and international law by supplying weapons used by Saudi Arabia in a bombing campaign in Yemen, costing thousands of civilian lives.


 Since taking office in May 2010, David Cameron’s governments have overseen over £5.6 billion of military licences to Saudi Arabia including fighter jets, tear gas, military vehicles, and targeting equipment. 

 

The SNP Westminster Leader, who has requested a meeting with the Prime Minister, has said David Cameron must provide a “full and frank disclosure” of the UK’s relationship with Saudi Arabia and involvement in the war in Yemen.

The legal analysis commissioned by Amnesty International and arms control organisation Saferworld found the Saudi Airforce has killed potentially thousands of civilians using British-built planes with pilots trained by British instructors. The bombing campaign is coordinated by the Saudis in the presence of British military advisers and British-built bombs are dropped, despite the Prime Minister not seeking parliamentary approval. 

 Angus Robertson MP used Prime Minister’s Questions this week to call on David Cameron to “admit that Britain is effectively taking part in a war in Yemen that is costing thousands of civilian lives.” 

 Concerns have been raised over the UK’s close relationship with Saudi Arabia - a country which earlier this month executed 47 individuals in their biggest mass execution in three decades. In evidence to the Foreign Affairs Committee in October last year, Sir Simon McDonald, the Permanent Secretary at the Foreign Office, said human rights were no longer a “top priority” nor had the “profile” within his department that they had “in the past”. 

 In the same month, Wikileaks cables revealed the UK government had conducted secret vote-trading deals with Saudi Arabia to ensure both states were elected to the UN Human Rights Council.  

 Arms sales from the UK have not been subject to independent scrutiny for more than nine months as the House of Common’s watchdog on the export of weapons and military equipment was not re-instated after last year’s May election.
 

 Angus Robertson MP said: 

 "The UK is effectively at war, and is potentially involved in the loss of thousands of civilian lives, yet the Prime Minister has swept it under the carpet.  

 “David Cameron needs to provide a full and frank disclosure of the UK's relationship with Saudi Arabia, and the UK's involvement in the war in Yemen - the lack of transparency has been alarming. 

 “World attention on conflict in Middle East is focussed on Syria and Iraq and sadly the catastrophic war in Yemen is largely overlooked, although it is claiming many lives and causing millions of people to flee their homes and become refugees. 

"I have requested a meeting with the Prime Minister to raise the evidence which has recently come to light, and I will urge for the Commons Committee on Arms Export Controls to be re-instated immediately to provide a level of scrutiny. 

"The public have a right to know if British-built bombs are responsible for civilian deaths."

 NOTES:
 

 Since taking office in May 2010, David Cameron’s governments have overseen over £5.6 billion of military licences to Saudi Arabia. It is by far the largest buyer of UK arms. These licences included fighter jets, tear gas, military vehicles, and targeting equipment: https://www.caat.org.uk/resources/export-licences/licence?rating=Military&date_to=2015-06-30®ion=Saudi+Arabia&date_from=2010-06
 

 Foreign Office Minister Ellwood on escalated tensions in Middle East (03/01/16): https://www.gov.uk/government/news/foreign-office-minister-ellwood-on-escalated-tensions-in-middle-east
 

 Cables and other documents from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia Ministry of Foreign Affairs: https://wikileaks.org/saudi-cables/

 http://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2015/sep/29/uk-and-saudi-arabia-in-secret-deal-over-human-rights-council-place
 

 Last month a comprehensive legal analysis commissioned by Amnesty and the arms control organisation Saferworld found that the UK Government is breaking national, EU and international law and policy by supplying weapons to Saudi Arabia in the context of its military intervention and bombing campaign in Yemen. The legal opinion was written by Professor Philippe Sands QC, Professor Andrew Clapham and Blinne Ní Ghrálaigh - all from the Matrix Chambers legal firm: https://www.amnesty.org.uk/press-releases/government-breaking-law-supplying-arms-saudi-say-leading-lawyers
 

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