British weapons being used to bomb civilians
This week we have been treated to speeches in Parliament and a great deal of press interest on the question of bombing Isis. The political temperature rose after the terrible events in Paris and the indiscriminate killing of people sitting in cafés and at a pop concert.
The government would now like the UK to join in the bombing campaign against Isis positions and David Cameron gave a lengthy speech in Parliament setting out his justifications for that course of action.
Meanwhile, in Yemen, another terrible conflict is in progress and yet this receives almost no coverage in the press. Thousands have died (one estimate is 5,700) including an estimated 400 children, and airstrikes by Saudi Arabian forces are bombing the country on a daily basis. Schools and hospitals are bombed and cluster bombs are being used in contravention of international treaties.
The difference is that Saudi Arabia is a big buyer of our weapons – indeed an estimated half of all weapons sales by the UK go there – so they are an important customer. Little is said to criticise them and readers of this blog will be aware of our attempts to get our government to take a more robust line in view of their multiple human rights abuses.
Amnesty and HRW have criticised the US government for agreeing to sell an unbelievable $1.3bn (£860m) of further ordinance to replenish stocks used in the campaign. This is in breach of the Arms Trade Treaty since the weapons are being used against civilians. Médecins sans Frontières report:
… ordinary people are bearing the brunt of an increasingly brutal conflict. Severe water shortages combined with airstrikes, sniper attacks and a fuel blockade have rapidly turned this conflict into a humaniitarian crisis, with over one million people displaced from their homes. The need for food, water, shelter, sanitation and medical care is growing daily.
Many clinics and hospitals have been destroyed, and those that are still functioning are in urgent need of more medical supplies. Yemen: A country under siege
AI and Human Rights Watch are in no doubt that UK and US supplied munitions are being used to cause this mayhem in Yemen. Up until now we have received nothing but bland assurances from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and from our MP. But recent events including changes to the Ministerial code and a downgrading of human rights in policy matters, seems to indicate that it is profit before humanity which is the key factor.
This might change because now that British made weaponry is turning up in Yemen thus causing some concern in the FCO. They are beginning to question the wisdom of supplying the Saudis who then use the stuff to kill ordinary civilians. We could just be indicted for war crimes. They are also worried that we are helping create the conditions for an Isis type organisation to establish themselves in Yemen.
So while speeches are made about bombing Isis, we are busy supplying the weaponry to create another catastrophe on the Saudi peninsular…
MSF; The Independent; Belfast Telegraph; Business News; HRW