Posts Tagged ‘Arms trade’


CAAT Webinar focusing on the role of UK arms firms in causing misery and death in Yemen

The purpose of the webinar was to focus on the role of UK arms suppliers in the continuing war in Yemen.  It featured a speaker from the Campaign Against the Arms Trade CAAT; one from Forensic Architecture and thirdly, Emily Thornberry MP.

The UK is not the only, or even the largest, supplier of weapons to the theatre, that role was taken by USA.  We must also not forget the role of the Iranian government who are supporting the Houthi rebels in the conflict.  Half of the Saudi air force is supplied by the UK and that includes spares and maintenance as well to keep them airworthy. US sales have been temporarily suspended by President Biden.

The Saudi government could not continue without UK support they suggested, not just in supplying weapons but diplomatic support as well in the UN.  We reported in 2015 the amazing news that Saudi had a seat on the UN’s Human Right’s Council.  It seems beyond belief that a country which executes people by decapitation with a sword, often in public, denies basic rights to women and uses torture as a matter of course, should have such a seat let alone be supported by the UK government.

The webinar put the role of arms suppliers in the spotlight who refuse to take responsibility for the mayhem their weapons cause.  Thousands have died and schools, hospitals, weddings and funerals have all been the subject of Saudi air raids.  RAF personnel are in Saudi to advise the Saudis yet many of these raids are in breach of International human rights.  There have been 55 airstrikes on health facilities alone. 

Hope for the future

The constant tide of grim stories which emerge from Yemen and the failure of our courts to hold the government to account, might make one despair at change ever being achieved.  The UK depends on the arms industry – and the network of City banks and agents who facilitate the movement of money – for a significant chunk of its exports.  They have been able to continue with this gruesome business because getting news and footage from the country is extremely difficult.  If the carnage was a regular feature of the news on TV things might have changed.  As it is, it can carry on largely unseen.

This might change with the arrival of an organisation called Forensic Architecture.  They are able to use forensic techniques to form linkages between airstrikes and the companies supplying the weapons.  They can show the impact of arms exports and the continuing targeting of civilians.  They can link therefore the sale of a jet to the bombing of a hospital.  Up to now, the companies, supported by the UK government, have been able to claim these violations are isolated incidents following the Court of Appeal decision to ban such sales.  Liz Truss claimed a review had been undertaken enabling sales to continue. Evidence gained by these methods will show complicity and make it harder to argue against complicity in what are war crimes.  This might be a game changer.

Forensic evidence might be a game changer

Emily Thornberry MP

Emily Thornberry is the shadow Secretary of International Trade opposite the minister, Liz Truss MP.  She said there have been 5 years of deceit practised on the British people.  The so called ‘isolated incidents’ based on the curious logic that as they were at different times and in different places therefore they are isolated.  British staff in Saudi ‘were in a different room’ therefore not complicit the minister claimed.  She pointed to the changing statements about the use of cluster munitions.  Her main point was that the UK has come to rely on these sales and it has distorted our policy in the region.  The government is caught in a web of complicity from which it cannot easily escape.  They will never change their position unless forced to do so by the Courts (which on previous experience is unlikely) or public opinion. 

Companies, civil servants and ministers are subject to the International Criminal Court for war crimes.  Will a case against those who were complicit in these crimes or who turned a blind eye, find themselves in front of the ICC?

A CAAT report on the arms trade was published today (14th July)


See also Mwatana and the Yemen Data Project and Human Rights Watch


Campaign Against the Arms Trade nominated for the Nobel peace Prize

We are delighted to report this news today (19 February 2021).  We have often featured CAAT in our posts especially concerning the UK arms industry’s supply of weapons to Saudi Arabia.  These weapons have been used to cause immense harm and destruction in Yemen.  The Saudi air force has bombed markets, schools, hospitals, clinics and wedding ceremonies killing many thousands of people and wounding many more.  UK personnel are ‘advising’ the Saudis, ostensibly to help them observe international human rights standards.  They carefully stop short of actually attaching the weapons as this would make them mercenaries.

The UK government was stopped from granting licenses but they have resumed.

The link shows how this award will help CAAT in their work.

 


Campaign Against the Arms Trade launches legal challenge

CAAT has launched a legal challenge after the UK government decided to resume arms sales to the Saudis for use in their bombing campaign in Yemen.  We discussed the flimsy grounds and shaky reasoning for this decision in a previous post.  The CAAT post can be accessed here.


Minister announces resumption of arms sales to Saudi Arabia used to cause so much misery in Yemen

It is sometimes difficult to keep up with government announcements.  On Monday 6 July, the Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab announced that a number of individuals would be subject to sanctions and banned entry to the UK.  Their assets would be frozen as well.  The UK is one of the major centres for money laundering and the City is the centre of a web of tax havens around the world.  City institutions are specialists in moving huge sums into secrecy jurisdictions thus enabling a range of criminal activities to go undetected.  Dominic Raab’s announcement was a welcome first step in clamping down on some of this activity therefore and has cross-party support.  In his statement he said:

He outlined human rights violations as those that contradict the right to life, the right not to be subject from torture and the right to be free from slavery, but said they were exploring adding other human rights and looking into including those guilty of corruption.

The Foreign Secretary outlined the individuals who will be sanctioned first.  These include those involved in the torture and murder of Russian lawyer, Sergei Magnitsky (who the Minister concluded his statement by paying tribute to), and Saudi Arabian journalist, Jamal Khashoggi, as well as those responsible for the genocide of the Rohingya population in Myanmar and for North Korea’s gulags.  Statement in the House of Commons Website (extract)

All those countries named have been subject of Amnesty and other human rights organisation’s campaigns.

THEN on the following day, we have an announcement by the Secretary of State for International Trade Liz Truss, (pictured) resuming arms sales to Saudi Arabia.  The contrast is astonishing as one of the countries included in the Foreign Secretary’s announcement was – Saudi Arabia for the murder of Khashoggi.  The announcement followed a legal case last year mounted by a number of human rights organisations, who claimed that the weapons – especially jets – were being used by the Saudis to bomb civilian targets in the war in Yemen.  The destruction there has been horrific with thousands of deaths.  Hospitals, schools, clinics and wedding ceremonies have all been attacked.  Saudi Arabia’s human rights record is dire with torture common, religious persecution rife and the dreadful treatment of women.

The Court of Appeal found against the government because it did not show, in the Court’s judgment, the question of whether there was an historic pattern of breaches of International Humanitarian Law was a question which required to be faced.  Even if it could not be answered with reasonable confidence for every incident, at least the attempt had to be made.  It was because the government had not reached findings on whether specific incidents constituted breaches of IHL as part of an assessment of clear risk, under Criterion 2c that the Court of Appeal concluded that their decision-making process was irrational and therefore unlawful.

Liz Truss’s argument is that they have sought to determine whether these “violations” are indicative of:

(i) any patterns of non-compliance;
(ii) a lack of commitment on the part of Saudi Arabia to comply with IHL; and/or
(iii) a lack of capacity or systemic weaknesses which might give rise to a clear risk of IHL breaches.

We have similarly looked for patterns and trends across the incidents which have been assessed as being unlikely to be breaches of IHL and those for which there is insufficient information to make an assessment.

This analysis has not revealed any such patterns, trends or systemic weaknesses. It is noted, in particular, that the incidents which have been assessed to be possible violations of IHL occurred at different times, in different circumstances and for different reasons. The conclusion is that these are isolated incidents

The decision to resume supplies has been roundly criticised.  Kate Allen of Amnesty said:

This is a deeply cynical move to restart business as usual when it comes to Saudi arms sales.  How the Government can seriously describe a five-year Saudi-led aerial assault on Yemen which has seen numerous examples of civilians killed in schools, hospitals, funeral halls and market places as a set of ‘isolated incidents’ is almost beyond comprehension.  This seems like an attempt to rewrite history and disregard international law.  The UK is bypassing its obligations under the international arms control framework. Its approach to this decision has effectively rendered our own protections meaningless.

Deeply cynical move – AIUK

 

Andrew Smith of the Campaign Against the Arms Trade in a statement said:

This is a disgraceful and morally bankrupt decision. The Saudi-led bombardment of Yemen has created the world’s worst humanitarian crisis, and the government itself admits that UK-made arms have played a central role on the bombing.  We will be considering this new decision with our lawyers, and will be exploring all options available to challenge it.

The evidence shows a clear pattern of heinous and appalling breaches of International humanitarian law by a coalition which has repeatedly targeted civilian gatherings such as weddings, funerals, and market places.  The government claims that these are isolated incidents, but how many hundreds of isolated incidents would it take for the Government to stop supplying the weaponry?

This exposes the rank hypocrisy at the heart of UK foreign policy.  Only yesterday the government was talking about the need to sanction human rights abusers, but now it has shown that it will do everything it can to continue arming and supporting one of the most brutal dictatorships in the world.


Criterion 2c.  Criterion 2c of the Consolidated EU and National Arms Export Licensing Criteria – which requires the Government to assess Saudi Arabia’s attitude towards relevant principles of international law and provides that the Government will not grant a licence if there is a clear risk that the items might be used in the commission of a serious violation of international humanitarian law.

Picture credit: Pink News


We are not meeting at present but hope to resume activities in the Autumn.


Letter from Kate Allen, Director of Amnesty, to the Observer

We have featured on these pages the continuing scandal of arms sales to the Saudi regime.  Not only the destruction of large parts of Yemen these weapons are used for, but the fact that the Saudi regime’s repression of its own people and denial of human rights.  After China, they are the world’s second biggest executioner often following unfair trials and confessions extracted through torture.  But no matter, there’s money to be made.

Kate Allen discusses these factors in her letter to the Observer newspaper on Sunday 10 May 2020:

It is, as you say, long over overdue that the UK government put its relationship with Saudi Arabia on a healthier footing (Now is the time to distance ourselves from an odious regime, editorial 3 May, 2020).  For years, the UK has claimed behind-closed-doors diplomacy with Riyadh has been better than “lecturing” the kingdom over its appalling humans rights record.  Yet repression has only worsened including under the suppose reformer Mohammad bin Salmon.  Now virtually every human rights activist in the the country has either been locked up, intimidated in to silence or forced the flee the country.

We have sole Riyadh plenty of weaponry, but the UK hushed policy on Saudi human rights has sold the country’s embattled human rights community shamefully short.

The weapons are used in the war in Yemen the bombing of which has caused appalling damage to the nation’s infrastructure.

Attacks by the Saudi-led coalition have destroyed infrastructure across Yemen. Saudi forces have targeted hospitals, clinics and vaccinations centres.  Blockades have starved the population and made it hard for hospitals to get essential medical supplies.  Source; Campaign Against the Arms Trade

The UK is complicit: many of the Coalition’s attacks have been carried out with UK-made fighter jets, and UK-made bombs and missiles – and the UK government has supported them with billions of pounds of arms sales.

 


Supreme Court victory enables pension funds to divest from companies involved in the illegal occupation by Israel

The Palestine Solidarity Campaign won an important victory in the Supreme Court last week when it was ruled that pension funds such as the Local Government Pension Scheme, can divest from companies which are complicit in Israel’s illegal occupation of Palestine lands.  It is seen as a major victory for the Boycott, Divest and Sanctions movement which is fiercely opposed by the prime minister Boris Johnson and the Conservative government.

The ruling will also enable divestment from the arms industry which is a major exporter to the region and whose products cause such mayhem in countries like Yemen.  In a previous post we discussed the activities of TripAdvisor and their role in the occupied lands.

Attendees at the Sarum Campaign for Israel Palestine SCIP, will have watched several films of what life is like in Palestine which is almost a prison.  We have seen footage of the hours spent at checkpoints, uprooting of olive groves and of course the enormous wall which carves the country in two.

Sources: CAAT; Middle East Eye

 

 


This moving film shown at the Arts Centre on 13 November

The film is about a group of workers at the Rolls Royce factory in East Kilbride who in 1972, having seen footage of the brutal coup in Chile and its aftermath, decided to ‘black’ the engines which were being repaired for the Chilean Airforce.  The engines were fitted into the Hunter Hawker jets which were used to bomb the presidential palace in Santiago in which President Allende died.  Some witnesses say the president killed himself.

The coup against Allende was inspired by the USA who were concerned about a socialist government successfully establishing itself in South America which they regarded as their backyard.  Copper was the country’s main export and American firms were said to be extracting excessive profits.  Allende’s predecessor had started the process of nationalisation which angered the American companies concerned.

The film – documentary by Filipe Bustos Sierra – plots the story of the Scottish shop stewards and the arguments and repercussions which followed the blacking.  The three key players who were quite elderly by the time the film was made never really knew the effects of their actions.  They knew of course that the engines were sitting in crates at the back of the factory but they did not know that they were the planes which actually bombed the palace.  The engines quickly became useless because of deterioration.

The Pinochet regime became notorious for the scale of its atrocities against its own people.  Thousands were simply shot, others were thrown from helicopters into the Pacific, torture was practised extensively.  Eventually, Pinochet was arrested in London under a Spanish warrant which caused enormous political upset.  He had many supporters in the UK and a YouTube video of a speech by Mrs Thatcher is quite shocking in the light of this film.

The director quite amazingly, managed to track down the engines which are lying in a field about an hour from Santiago.  The particular engine was shipped back to East Kilbride.

We were pleased to see that Amnesty had several mentions during the film for their part in documenting the outrages perpetrated by the regime.  We are grateful for the Arts Centre in showing it and to enable us to give a short presentation and collect signatures afterwards.

Today

The question of course is what about today?  We have for several years now described the horrors of the war in Yemen and in particular, the role of British companies in supplying weaponry to the Saudis.  Not only do we supply the weapons, but British and RAF personnel are involved in the bombing by helping the Saudis.  British weapons are used to bomb schools, mosques and medical facilities.  So are the workers at BAE Systems and other arms companies ‘blacking’ their products destined for the Saudi Air Force.  It seems not.  One reason is the trade union laws are such that actions of this nature are illegal.  Arms sales have become so normalised now that the idea of protesting at the effects of their use seems pointless.

This was an absorbing film and a moving story of a handful of shop stewards in Scotland who felt they had to do something and even risk the sack, to help stop the terrible events in Chile.

 


Nae Pasaran this week

The film Nae Pasaran is on this Wednesday 13th at the Arts Centre in Salisbury starting at 7:30 and tickets are available at £8.00 each.  The film is set in Scotland.  Details about the film can be seen here.


UN Human Rights Council publishes a report yesterday (3 September 2019) on human rights infringements by Britain France and USA

The UN’s panel of eminent experts on Yemen has today published a damning report on the activities of the UK government and others into the atrocities being committed in Yemen.  They conclude that international human rights law has been infringed.  The most damning conclusion is:

The Experts found reasonable grounds to believe that the conduct of hostilities by the parties to the conflict, including by airstrikes and shelling, continued to have an extreme impact on civilians and many of these attacks may amount to serious violations of international humanitarian law.  The Experts further found reasonable grounds to believe that, in addition to violations related to the conduct of hostilities, the parties to the armed conflict in Yemen are responsible for arbitrary deprivation of the right to life, arbitrary detention, enforced disappearances, sexual violence, torture, ill-treatment, child recruitment, violations of fundamental freedoms, and violations of economic, social and cultural rights.  These amount to violations of international human rights law and international humanitarian law, as applicable. Subject to determination by an independent and competent court, many of these violations may result in individuals being held responsible for war crimes.

The Campaign Against the Arms Trade has waged a long legal battle with the UK government which was successful in June  persuading the Court of Appeal that the Secretary of State’s actions were ‘irrational and therefore unlawful.’

Further background on the UN report can be found in a Guardian article 3 September.

Another extract from the report details activities we have previously highlighted:

The report notes that coalition air strikes have caused most direct civilian casualties.  The airstrikes have hit residential areas, markets, funerals, weddings, detention facilities, civilian boats and even medical facilities.  Based on the incidents they examined, the Group of Experts have reasonable grounds to believe that individuals in the Government of Yemen and the coalition may have conducted attacks in violation of the principles of distinction, proportionality and precaution that may amount to war crimes.
“There is little evidence of any attempt by parties to the conflict to minimize civilian casualties. I call on them to prioritise human dignity in this forgotten conflict,” said Kamel Jendoubi, chairperson of the Group of International and Regional Eminent Experts on Yemen.

The UN report can be accessed here.


If you live in the Salisbury, South Wilts/North Dorset area we would and would like to join us, you would be very welcome.  The best thing is to keep an eye on this site or our Facebook and Twitter pages and come to an event.


Shocking news of a beheading spree in Saudi Arabia.  Allegations of a crucifixion

It has been widely reported that Saudi Arabia executed 37 individuals on Tuesday 23 April 2019 in what was the biggest mass execution since 2016.  The executions have been widely condemned around the world and mark an alarming increase in the use of the death penalty by the regime.  Any hope that the rise to power of Mohammad bin Salman (pictured) marked a more liberal regime seem well and truly to be finished.

The UK government is usually quite reticent in these matters claiming to make its views known behind the scenes.  However, in this instance, diplomatic language seems to be set to one side following an urgent statement in the House of Commons:

The Foreign Office minister Sir Alan Duncan, answering an urgent question in the Commons, spurned the usual diplomatic niceties, saying the mass executions were “a deeply backward step which we deplore”. He added it was “deplorable and totally unacceptable” that at least one of those executed had been a minor at the time of the arrest.
He highlighted reports that one of those executed was displayed on a cross, saying that anyone in the House, just two days after Easter, would find “more repulsive than anything we could picture.  Parliament site [accessed 24 April 2019]

In response, Sir Vince Cable said:

We are in urgent need of a reappraisal of our relationship with Saudi Arabia given that the continued medieval barbarism of the regime does not constitute the basis for a friendly alliance, and indeed makes it an enemy of our values and our human rights.  Ibid

The executions follow sham trials and according to Amnesty International, involve confessions achieved through the use of torture.  The families of those executed were not told of the executions in advance.  It has been reported that one head was displayed on a pole and that one man was crucified.

Juvenile

One individual, Abdulkareem al-Hawaj was arrested at the age of 16 and the execution of people under the age of 18 at the time of their arrest is against international law.

So far this year, Saudi has executed 104 people and if the current rate continues, will exceed last year’s total of 149 for the whole year.

Saudi Arabia is a major customer for our arms industry and our weapons are among those being used in the devastating war currently being waged in Yemen

Sources:  Parliament site; CNN; Guardian