Those who watched this programme will have been horrified at the destruction which has taken place in this country. It looked as though no part has escaped bombing. Tens of thousands living in camps in desperate circumstances. But perhaps the most chilling was the impact it is having on children and babies with scenes of malnutrition in understaffed and under resourced hospitals. The blockade meant that food supplies sat out in the Red Sea for so long that it was already unusable by the time it was eventually landed the programme showed.
The programme brought out well our role in this war by supplying weapons and military personnel to assist the Saudis in their campaign. We have also helped the Saudis on the UN’s Human Rights Council.
It is truly shaming that this is happening and our (the UK) and the United State’s role in supplying the wherewithal and the political cover for the devastating campaign. While most of the media’s attention is on (quite rightly) the terrible events in Syria, until now too little attention has been paid to this forgotten war and our dreadful role in it. Boris Johnson, the Foreign Secretary, accuses the Russians of war crimes in Syria so what do you call our role in the Yemen?
We have described the events in Yemen and the role of the UK in selling arms to the Saudis who are using them to bomb civilian targets in that country. We have been assured that the UK has a strict policy when it comes to selling arms which does not in fact seem to work. The most recent activity by our government is to block and enquiry by the European Union into allegations of war crimes in Yemen.
The UN’s Human Rights Council based in Geneva was hoping to carry out a proper enquiry but this was stymied by the UK. Only today, Boris Johnson condemned the Russians for war crimes in Syria alleging that civilians were being targeted. There seems little difference to what the Russians are alleged to be doing and what we are doing by selling arms to the Saudis who then use them to bomb civilian targets, hospitals and schools.
The policy has been condemned by Human Rights Watch and by the Campaign Against the Arms Trade.
The march in aid of refugees was attended by at least 15,000 yesterday and was good natured and uplifting. It started in Pall Mall, London, and wove its way along Piccadilly ending up in Parliament square. It is encouraging in the current climate to see so many people travel from as far afield as the Wirral and Penzance to show their solidarity for a better treatment of refugees. Britain’s role has been exceptionally poor largely because of hostility towards them egged on by a xenophobic press.
Three year report on the group’s activities is published
The three year report, prepared by our chair, is published and shows what we have achieved over this time. It is always interesting to look back and review progress and for a small group, we have done a lot in the last 3 years.
The death penalty report is now available thanks to group member Lesley for the work in putting it together. The report covers several countries but it must always be remembered that China leads the world in executing its citizens.
The march was a huge success and was attended by at least 15, 000 people. A fuller report and pictures will be posted soon.
March in London on Saturday 17 September to support refugees
Women, men and children around the world are fleeing war, persection and torture. They have been forced into the hands of smugglers and onto dangerous journeys across the sea in rickety old boats and dinghys. Many have lost their lives. Those who have made it often find themselves stranded in makeshift camps in train stations, ports or by the roadside.
And still, politicians across Europe fail to provide safe and legal routes for people to seek asylum.
Meanwhile, ordinary people have responded with extraordinary displays of humanity and generosity. They’ve been moved to act after seeing thousands of people drowning in the Mediterranean, the continuing misery of camps in places like Calais, and images of the brutal conflicts across the world.
We need to tell the Prime Minister Theresa May that we want to help.
The UK government must do more – let’s call on them to:
Lead the way towards a more human global response to the millions fleeing conflict
Offer safe passage to the UK for more people who have been forced to flee their homes
Do more to help refugees in the UK rebuild their lives
The march starts at 11:30 outside Green Park station and ends in Parliament Square.
On the BBC last night (6 September) there was an item concerning arms sales by Britain to Saudi Arabia. Readers of this blog will be no strangers to this item and we have been highlighting this trade for some time. The weapons are being used to bomb Yemen and targets include hospitals, schools and even wedding parties. British service personnel are involved in the command centre doing what is not entirely clear.
At last the Commons Committee on Arms Export Controls is asking questions and a leak of their report said:
The weight of evidence of violations of international humanitarian law by the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen is now so great that it is very difficult to continue to support Saudi Arabia while maintaining the credibility of our arms licensing regime
Oxfam is among the agencies who have been critical of this trade and the results in Yemen. At least 4,000 have died, many have had to flee their homes and among the dead are women and children. Oxfam said:
The UK government is in denial and disarray over its arms sales to the Saudi-led coalition bombing campaign in Yemen. It has misled its own parliament about its oversight of arms sales and its international credibility is in jeopardy as it commits to action on paper but does the opposite in reality
Even now, the Foreign Office continues to defend the sales and Boris Johnson has reportedly defended the Saudis saying:
They have the best insight into its own procedures and will be able to conduct the most thorough and conclusive investigation
Will be able to but will they?
Of course this is linked to the powerful lobbying by the arms firms themselves and countries like Saudi (who have a representative Adel al-Jubeir here to try and persuade the Committee not to recommend banning arms sales). The current version of Private Eye (1246) has a lengthy report on what is called the ‘revolving door,’ that is the huge numbers of senior civil servants, ex-ministers and senior military people who move from their posts into companies and firms linked to their previous roles. It makes the point that sound government is eroded if ministers and other senior people are hoping to hop into a lucrative directorship or consultancy once they leave government or the services. In a four page report it lists the shear numbers moving out of government or the services into commercial posts usually linked to their previous roles. How likely are they to stop sales to Saudi if it could jeopardise their post ministerial employment?
The Committee meets today so it will be interesting to hear what they decide.