The killing goes on
The news yesterday that the Metropolitan Police are looking into evidence of war crimes by the Saudis in the Yemen is encouraging. It comes at a time when the prime minister, Theresa May is touring the middle East, including Saudi Arabia, in an effort to promote trade. She is not alone as Liam Fox is in the Philippines with president Duterte and Mr Hammond is in India. Mr Fox has received widespread condemnation having spoken of this country’s ‘shared values’ with a regime which has extra-judicially killed around 7,000 of its citizens as part of a war on drugs.
There has been a lot happening this week with the awful news of possible use of Sarin nerve agent in Syria allegedly by the Syrian government.
Starting with Yemen: the British government has authorised £3.2bn or arms sales to the Saudis a fair proportion of which have been used to bomb schools, hospitals and wedding ceremonies in Yemen. The result has been a humanitarian disaster with nearly 10,000 killed and a million displaced. RAF personnel are involved in the control room of the coalition although their direct involvement in the bombing is denied. The Campaign Against the Arms Trade is currently pursuing a case against the government.
One would think that as we are selling arms to the Saudis to enable to continue the carnage in Yemen, that our politicians would be a circumspect in criticising others. Yet both the Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson and Theresa May were voluble in criticising Bashar Al-Assad for the terrible events in Syria seemingly oblivious to our own activities in Yemen.
The activities of the prime minister, the foreign secretary and the secretary for international trade have all been widely criticised by a wide range of commentators and organisations. It is becoming increasingly clear that to promote the idea of a ‘Global Britain’ we are going to have to deal with a wide range of unsavoury regimes. This means that any vestige of an ‘ethical foreign policy’ is long dead. The emphasis is now on business with any country and few questions are asked about their human rights.
To take Saudi as an example. In addition to its activities in Yemen, it is an autocratic regime, torture is routine, its treatment of minorities and women is deplorable and it executes people in public after highly dubious trials. But to our government none of this matters and getting them to buy more arms and list their oil company, Aramco, on the London Stock Exchange are the real prizes.
These activities go to the heart of what we are as a nation. The European Union, for all its faults and shortcomings, is a union of countries which believe in the rule of law, democracy and liberal values. We want to leave this union and no sooner have we sent in the letter triggering our departure, than four of our senior politicians dash off to dubious regimes grubbing around for any deal they can get. It is deeply shaming and added to which, they want to come out of the European Convention of Human Rights, the convention we were so instrumental in setting up.
It has quickly become clear that securing trade deals is now paramount, with no questions asked. In defence of our turning a blind eye to the Saudi regime’s lack of human rights, the prime minister says the state is crucial in saving British lives by providing valuable intelligence information, an assertion impossible to prove and extremely convenient. The abandonment of our British values is much lamented. Paradoxically, one of the driving forces for leaving the EU was the desire to reassert British values. The decision to leave seems to mean that we shall have to dump them quickly to enable us to trade with a range of disreputable regimes.
Economically it makes little sense as the amount of trade with these regimes is tiny in comparison to the EU. From the moral point of view, it lowers our standing in the world and reduces our influence. It sets a poor example to other countries wishing to promote their arms sales.
We would welcome anyone in the Salisbury area wishing to join us in our campaigns for better human rights. The best thing is to come to one of our events and make yourself known. Look on this site, on Twitter or Facebook for details of events. We look forward to meeting you.