Yemen


Programme on Channel 4 about the war in Yemen.

September 2016

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?

UK blocks war crimes enquiry


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.

arms protest
Amnesty protest against arms sales to Yemen

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The policy has been condemned by Human Rights Watch and by the Campaign Against the Arms Trade.

Yemen – leaked report


Leaked report on BBC’s Newsnight criticises supposedly rigorous arms sales regime
Hospital strike. Source IB times

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.

Sources: BBC; International Business Times; the Sun; Oxfam; Amnesty International

 

 

Foreign Office retracts statements


War in Yemen

For most of this year we have been commenting on the war in Yemen and the human rights situation in Saudi Arabia.  We wrote to the Salisbury MP John Glen, who replied enclosing a bland statement from the Foreign Office Minister, Tobias Ellwood.  We have noted the government’s activities in getting the Saudi’s onto the UN’s Human Rights Council and the continued supply of arms to the Saudis despite their use in Yemen on civilian targets, schools and medical facilities.  We have also noted the steady softening of policies to make it easier – it is believed – for arms companies to ply their trade.  The Telegraph reported in an article in February, the difference between Syria and Yemen.  In the former country, bombing of a MSF hospital led to outrage by press and politicians in the UK:  by contrast, bombing of MSF hospitals in Yemen is greeted by a deafening silence :

Alas, this is not merely about Western indifference but about complicity and collusion. Last October, Britain and the US successfully blocked plans for a UN independent investigation into potential war crimes committed by Saudi Arabia in Yemen. This was a unique opportunity to hold all sides of the conflict accountable for their actions. Instead, Saudi Arabia has been allowed to investigate itself through its own internal commission.  (24 Feb 2016)

Then, on Thursday 21st July when parliament rose, there was a curious statement issued by the FCO.  It has been forced to retract numerous written and oral statements to parliament which said ministers had assessed that Saudi Arabia was not in breach of international humanitarian law in Yemen.

The admission led to calls by the Liberal Democrats for an investigation into Saudi behaviour in Yemen and a suspension of UK arms sales.  The Liberal Democrats have repeatedly claimed that the Saudi military campaign has targeted civilians.  We also drew attention in a previous blog to the presence of British service personnel in Saudi control rooms.  The Foreign Office said the incorrect statements – made by three different ministers, some as far back as six months ago – were errors and did not represent an attempt to mislead MPs over its assessment of the Saudi campaign.

It stressed that other written answers had made clear that the UK government had made no assessment of whether the Saudis were in breach of humanitarian law.

The last day of parliament is a favourite time to slip out inconvenient statements since there is no time for questions or debate to take place.  The FCO simply said it had been reviewing the correspondence.

The government is facing a court case arguing that it should ban arms sales to Saudi Arabia.  The Guardian newspaper said:

In its written answer published on Thursday, the Foreign Office said written answers in February 2016 had stated: “We have assessed that there has not been a breach of IHL (international humanitarian law) by the coalition.” The correction said these should have stated: “We have not assessed that there has been a breach of IHL by the coalition.”

The Foreign Office also corrected a written answer by the then foreign secretary, Philip Hammond, who stated on 4 January 2016: “I regularly review the situation with my own advisers and have discussed it on numerous occasions with my Saudi counterpart. Our judgment is that there is no evidence that IHL has been breached, but we shall continue to review the situation regularly.”

This is something of a volt face and to issue such a statement on the last day of parliament is shameful.  It achieved its object however with next to no media coverage.  Why does it matter?  We are currently suffering a severe threat from ISIS with a recent outrage in Nice said to be inspired by the group.  Saudi Arabia’s activities in Yemen, supported by US and UK weapons, personnel and political cover, provide an ideal recruiting ground for this terrorist group.  At present all eyes are on Syria but how long will it be before our activities in Yemen come under the spotlight?


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The Maldives


Running with the hare, hunting with the hounds

The Campaign Against the Arms Trade CAAT, has recently shared with the Observer some research it has done into the record level of arms sales to countries with dubious human rights records (Britain sells record £3bn of weapons in a year to regimes that violate human rights, 29 May 2016).  We have over recent months posted several blogs concerning these arms sales to countries such as Saudi Arabia and also the involvement of British Service personnel in the bombing of civilians in Yemen.

We have also highlighted the government’s steady watering down of its human rights policies to enable more arms sales to take place.  The CAAT’s statistics show that more than £3bn of British-made weaponry was licensed for export to 21 of the Foreign Office’s 30 ‘human rights priority countries’ that is countries where the worst of the human rights violations take place.

Countries such as Saudi and Bahrain are familiar to us but less attention has been paid to the Maldives which does have a Salisbury connection.  The first elected leader of the Maldives Mohamed Nasheen (pictured) – who went to school in the city – has been sentenced to 13 years in prison allegedly for terrorist offences.  Amnesty has said the sentence was ‘politically motivated’.  It released a report in February which said that the government had been:

effectively undermining human rights protection by failing to strengthen the independent institutions of the state.

A local NGO, Transparency Maldives, issued a statement expressing concern about ‘irregularities’ in the legal process.

The MP for Salisbury Mr John Glen has also been busy making speeches, writing in the Salisbury Journal and on his blog about the situation there.  He says that Nasheed’s sentence was ‘illegal’ (Time to promote freedom in the Maldives, 17 May 2016).  He goes on to say:

Last year, Nasheed was put on trial on politically-motivated and completely false charges of “terrorism”, found guilty and sentenced for 13 years.  In the course of his trial Nasheed was prohibited from presenting any evidence or calling witnesses, with the court pre-emptively concluding that no testimony could refute the evidence submitted by the prosecution.

Another 1,700 people face criminal charges for peaceful political protest or speech, and journalists have been assaulted, arrested or disappeared.  Attacks on the Maldives’ independent press have intensified in recent weeks to the extent that the Maldives’ oldest newspaper, Haveeru, has been prohibited by court order from publishing its daily print edition.

He concludes his blog by arguing that pressure should be applied to the Maldivian government:

Pressure must be increasingly and continually applied to compel the Maldives Government to release its political prisoners and allow freedom of the press. I hope that CMAG [Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group] will be able to greatly improve the situation but if not we should not be afraid to countenance targeted sanctions, such as travel bans and asset freezes, on the leadership of the Maldivian Government.

All this is commendable and it is good to see an MP arguing forcefully for human rights in a place such as the Maldives.  The problem however is the arms sales.  As the Observer article makes clear, quoting Andrew Smith of CAAT ‘These arms sales are going to countries that even the Foreign Office accepts are run by some of the most brutal and repressive regimes in the world.’

So while we may praise Mr Glen for raising this matter in Parliament and in the Journal and on his blog, the fact remains that the department granting these licenses is the Department for Business Innovation and Skills in which Mr Glen is the PPS to the Minister.  The Ministry simply says that the department

The Government takes its arms export responsibilities very seriously and operates one of the most robust arms export controls regimes in the world.

Some may argue that Mr Glen’s position is inconsistent:  making speeches about human rights violations in the Maldives while working for a department which is busy allowing the sale of arms to them.  Others may choose to use a harsher word.

 

 

Committee to look into Yemen arms sales


A back bench committee is to probe arms sales to Yemen

Readers of this blog, other human rights sites as well the Campaign Against the Arms Trade, will be familiar with the story of Yemen.  There is a war going on there and civilians are being killed.  Médécins sans Frontières facilities are being bombed.  The UK is busy supplying the Saudis with arms and British military personnel are present in the command centre.  £2.8bn of weapons have been supplied since the war began.

At long last the cross party committee on arms exports controls is to look into the matter.  We await their report with interest.

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The hidden war …


British involvement in the war in the Yemen

News programmes and newspapers generally are currently filled with arguments over Brexit, the American primaries, Syria and immigration.  Only occasionally does the war in Yemen and our involvement in it get a mention.  An exception was an interview by Frank Gardner [FG], the BBC’s Security correspondent, with Michael Fallon [MF] the Defence Secretary on Wednesday 2 March on the BBC’s Today programme.  It is worth reproducing most of it as it lays bare the thinness of the arguments deployed by Mr Fallon and also its inconsistencies.

Gardner introduces the piece by referring to the ‘unseen war’ which has waged for 5 years and the involvement by western powers in supplying the munitions to enable it to be carried on.  Indeed, Mr Cameron recently backed what he termed the ‘brilliant’ arms sales to Saudi Arabia only a matter of hours after the European Union voted to ban further supplies.  More arms firms are cashing in on the Yemen conflict and sales have surged to £2.8bn since the conflict began.

Michael Fallon said ‘British officers are offering training and advice to the Saudi armed forces, they are not involved in advising selection or the approval of targets in the war in Yemen.  On the contrary [they] are there to support the equipment we have supplied.’

FG: ‘You must be feeling a bit uneasy that some of that equipment, or the aircraft used to deliver it, is the Saudis have admitted, hitting hospitals and civilian targets?’

MF: We have some of the strictest arms control criteria in the world.  Before we supply equipment to anyone including obviously our key allies such as Saudi Arabia, we insist that they not only comply with international humanitarian law and the law of armed conflict …’ [interview ends]

FG said that he had spoken to a senior Saudi spokesman who denied that civilian targets were being bombed.  He then spoke to a Yemeni researcher about what ordinary Yemeni’s think of western, and in particular US and UK involvement, in this war.  She said that people on the ground are definitely aware of the involvement of the US and UK in the bombing.  What, asked Gardner, was the likely long-term effects of this?  She said:

The long-term effect is not only civilians dying and that the country is at a standstill, [but] what we are seeing is youth joining al-Qaeda in the Arabian peninsular and the Islamic State.

Gardner wound up by saying that the longer this war goes on without a result and the continued absence of the rule of law then the greater the risks that terrorist groups will profit from the chaos and build a ‘mini-state.’

Conclusions

There is no doubt that we are helping to fuel this conflict.  If our service personnel are there to ‘support the equipment we have supplied’ why was it all kept a secret until blurted out by a Saudi spokesman?  And what does ‘supporting equipment we have supplied’ mean anyway?  If weapons are being used to kill civilians does our ‘support’ make it better or worse?  The statement is meaningless.

But the big political error is to be involved at all and it could be laying the foundation stones of the next stage of ISIS’s development.  His statement that we have some of the ‘strictest arms control criteria in the world’ verges on the bizarre if the criteria are not being applied.

Our passion for arms sales has blinded politicians to the risks being run.  It’s all very well for the Prime Minister to be praising aircraft builders for their ‘brilliant’ achievements but if those planes are used to kill civilians, where does it take us?

In 2011, the then Foreign Secretary William Hague made a speech on human rights in which he said:

and how we are seen to uphold our values is a crucial component of our influence in the world.

He went on to say:

If change can be achieved peacefully in the Middle East it will be the biggest advance of democratic freedoms since the collapse of communism in Eastern Europe.  If it cannot, we are likely to see turmoil and unrest which sets hack the cause of democracy and human rights

It would seem these ideas have been forgotten.


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Britain’s role in the Yemen war


Britain’s involvement in Yemen war described in detail

February 2016

In this blog – our longest yet – we reproduce an article published in Dissident Voice which discussed in detail the role the British government is playing in supporting the Saudi government, by supplying arms and providing personnel, in its war in the Yemen.   Most of the material here will be familiar to readers but it is useful to have a separate voice.  Our local MP Mr John Glen has, so far, been silent on these matters. 

It is more than possible to speculate why Prime Minister David Cameron has declared it his mission to scrap the Human Rights Act – which is incorporated into the European Convention on Human Rights – it appears he simply does not believe in human rights.

For example, the fact that Saudi Arabia executed – including beheadings – forty seven people in one day last month, displaying their bodies from gibbets, failed to deter him from having British military experts to work with their Saudi counterparts, advising on which targets – and which people, it seems – to bomb in Yemen. Parliament has not been consulted, thus, without a chance to debate and vote, democracy too has been suspended.

The fact that in May 2013 Saudi also beheaded five Yemenis, then used cranes to display their headless bodies against the skyline (Al-Akhbar, May 21st, 2013) also did not trouble him.  Neither did that by November 10th, 2015, the year’s total executions had already reached one hundred and fifty one, the highest for twenty years, in what Amnesty International called “a bloody executions spree.”

But why care about human rights or outright savagery when there are arms to be sold?  As written previously, in one three month period last year UK arms sales to Saudi soared by 11,000%.  From a mere nine million pounds the preceding three months: “The exact figure for British arms export licences from July to September 2015 was £1,066,216,510 in so-called ‘ML4’ export licenses, which relate to bombs, missiles, rockets, and components of those items.”

Priority Countries

Cameron’s government treats such barbarism with astonishing sanguinity.  For instance, it has come to light that in 2011 the UK drew up a list of thirty: “‘priority countries’ where British diplomats would be ‘encouraged’ to ‘proactively drive forward’ and make progress towards abolishing the death penalty over five years.’ “

Saudi Arabia was not on the list, an omission which Amnesty International’s Head of Policy, Alan Hogarth called “astonishing.” (Independent, January 5th, 2016.)  However, a Foreign Office spokeswoman told the Independent that: “A full list of countries of concern was published in March 2015 in the (UK) Annual Human Rights Report and that includes Saudi Arabia and its use of the death penalty.”

Wrong.  In the Report under “Abolition of the Death Penalty”, there is much concentration on countries in the (UK) “Commonwealth Caribbean” and a casual, subservient nod at the US, but no mention of Saudi. Under “The Death Penalty”, Jordan and Pakistan, were mentioned, as was the “particular focus on two … regions, Asia and the Commonwealth Caribbean.”  Singapore, Malaysia, China and Taiwan, Japan (the latter, three executions in 2014) Suriname and Vietnam are cited. Saudi Arabia is nowhere to be found.

Under the heading Torture Prevention, there is a quote by David Cameron: “Torture is always wrong” (December 9th, 2014). Paragraph one includes: “The impact on victims, their families and their communities is devastating. It can never be justified in any circumstance.”  A number of countries are listed.  No prizes for guessing, in spite of medieval torture practices, which is not.

However, under “Criminal Justice and the Rule of Law” there is:

The Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO) issued revised guidance on the human rights aspects of OSJA (Overseas Security and Justice Guidance) in February 2014.  The guidance ensures that officials do their utmost to identify risks of UK actions causing unintended human rights consequences.

What an irony as David Cameron is currently moving heaven and earth to halt legal action against British soldiers accused of acts of extreme human rights abuses in Iraq.  As Lesley Docksey has written:

The said ‘brave servicemen’ are in danger of being taken to Court over their abusive treatment, and in some cases murder, of Iraqi detainees during the invasion of Iraq.  Hundreds of complaints have been lodged with the Iraq Historic Allegations Team (IHAT), which was investigating between 1,300 -1,500 cases.  Many are simple complaints of ill treatment during detention, but some are far more serious:

  • Death(s) while detained by the British Army
  • Deaths outside British Army base or after contact with British Army
  • Many deaths following ‘shooting incidents’.

Worse, the British government is considering taking action against one of the law firms dealing with some of the cases, Leigh Day, with another, Public Interest Lawyers, in their sights. When it comes to hypocrisy, David Cameron is hard to beat.

Arms sales

Worth noting is that in the UK government’s own list of “countries of humanitarian concern”, according to the Campaign Against the Arms Trade (CAAT), the UK has sold weapons to twenty four out of twenty seven of them, with Saudi Arabia in a deal to purchase seventy two Eurofighter Typhoon aircraft in a deal worth an eventual £4.5 Billion.

Aside from the purchase of the Typhoon jets, major deals between Saudi Arabia and British companies include a £1.6bn agreement for Hawk fighter jets and bulk sales of machine guns, bombs and tear gas.  [We can add here that Salisbury firm Chemring’s accounts show a high level of sales to Saudi sufficient to be separately identified under company law]

In fact, Saudi Arabia have access to twice as many British-made warplanes as the RAF does, while bombs originally stockpiled by Britain’s Armed Forces are being sent to Saudi Arabia” – to currently decimate Yemen.

The overriding message is that human rights are playing second fiddle to company profits,

said CAAT spokesperson Andrew Smith, adding:

The Government and local authorities up and down the country are profiting directly from the bombing of Yemen. Challenging them to divest from Saudi Arabia … is something people can do directly.

In the light of a fifty one page UN Report on the bombing of Yemen obtained by various parties on January 27th, Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn called for an immediate suspension of arms sales to Saudi, pending the outcome of an independent Inquiry.  David Cameron stated, farcically, that: “Britain had the strictest rules governing arms sales of almost any country, anywhere in the world.”

However, in one of the key findings, the UN Report says:

The panel documented that the coalition had conducted airstrikes targeting civilians and civilian objects, in violation of international humanitarian law, including camps for internally displaced persons and refugees; civilian gatherings, including weddings; civilian vehicles, including buses; civilian residential areas; medical facilities; schools; mosques; markets, factories and food storage warehouses; and other essential civilian infrastructure, such as the airport in Sana’a, the port in Hudaydah and domestic transit routes.

It adds:

The panel documented 119 coalition sorties relating to violations of international humanitarian law.  It also reported cases of civilians fleeing and being chased and shot at by helicopters.  Moreover it stated that the humanitarian crisis was compounded by the Saudi blockade of ships carrying fuel, food and other essentials that are trying to reach Yemen.

The panel said that: “civilians are disproportionately affected” and deplored tactics that: “constitute the prohibited use of starvation as a method of warfare.” (Emphasis added.)

David Mepham, UK Director of Human Rights Watch commented:

For almost a year, Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond has made the false and misleading claim that there is no evidence of laws of war violations by the UK’s Saudi ally and other members of the coalition.

The UK Ministry of Defence, declining to say how many UK military advisers were in Saudi Command and Control Centres, said that the UK was: “… offering Saudi Arabia advice and training on best practice targeting techniques to help ensure continued compliance with International Humanitarian Law.” (Guardian, January 27th, 2016.)  Yet another quote from the “You could not make this up” files.

It has to be wondered whether the Ministry’s “best practice targeting techniques” includes the near one hundred attacks on medical facilities between March and October 2015, a practice which compelled the International Committee of the Red Cross, in November, to declare the organization: “appalled by the continuing attacks on health care facilities in Yemen …”

They issued their statement after:

Al-Thawra hospital, one of the main health care facilities in Taiz which is providing treatment for about fifty injured people every day was reportedly shelled several times …)

It is not the first time health facilities have been attacked … Close to a hundred similar incidents have been reported since March 2015. (Emphases added.)

Deliberate attacks on health facilities represent a flagrant violation of international humanitarian law (IHL).”

An earlier attempt to have the UN Human rights Council establish an Inquiry failed due to objections from Saudi Arabia, who, with help from Britain, currently Chairs an influential panel on the same Human Rights Council.  Farce is alive and well in the corridors of the UN.

Attacks on medical facilities

The repeated attacks on a targeted medical facility and other IHL protected buildings and places of sanctuary is a testimony to the total disregard for International Humanitarian Law, by the British, US and their allies and those they “advise”, from the Balkans to Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Libya and now Yemen.

However, in spite of the horrors under which Yemenis are suffering and dying, and Saudi’s appalling Tobias Ellwwod MPhuman rights deficit, UK Foreign Office Minister Tobias Ellwood, an American-born former soldier, in a visit to Saudi Arabia last month was quoted in the country’s Al Watan newspaper as revealing:

the ignorance of the British to the notable progress in Saudi Arabia in the field of human rights, confirming throughout the visit of a British FCO delegation… that he had expressed his opinion regarding the human rights situation in Saudi Arabia before the British Parliament, and that the notable progress in this area has been obscured.

The Foreign Office strongly denied that Ellwood had expressed such a view.

The Saudi led, British advised and US ”intelligence” provided coalition is reported to have formed “an independent team of experts” to assess “incidents” (which should be described as outrages and war crimes) in order to reach “conclusions, lessons learned …” etc. Thus, as ever, the arsonist is to investigate the cause of the fire.

Amnesty, Human rights Watch, Médecins Sans Frontières (who have had three medical facilities bombed) and The Campaign to Stop Bombing in Yemen have all called for an independent Inquiry with the power to hold those responsible for atrocities to account.  None of which, however, would bring back the dead, restore the disabled, disfigured, limbless, or beautiful, ruined, ancient Yemen – another historical Paradise lost.


Felicity Arbuthnot is a journalist with special knowledge of Iraq. Author, with Nikki van der Gaag, of Baghdad in the Great City series for World Almanac books, she has also been Senior Researcher for two Award winning documentaries on Iraq, John Pilger’s Paying the Price: Killing the Children of Iraq and Denis Halliday Returns for RTE (Ireland.) Read other articles by Felicity.

This article was posted on Wednesday, February 3rd, 2016 at 11:30am and is filed under Death Penalty, Human Rights, Militarism, Saudi Arabia, United Kingdom, United Nations, War Crimes, Weaponry, Yemen.

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British involvement in bombing Yemen


British military advisors involved in bombing in Yemen

yemen bombing

News has emerged over the past few days that British and American advisors and service personnel have been involved in advising the Saudi Arabians in their attacks on Yemen.  Our involvement might not have come to light had it not been for the Saudis themselves and a briefing by their foreign minister Adel al-Jubeir.  The Minister of Defence, Michael Fallon, issued a statement to the House of Commons on 17 December which simply referred to 94 personnel embedded with ‘Coalition HQ’s’ without being at all specific about what that meant.  It now appears our people are actively involved in targeting strikes.  MoD say that our personnel are “not directly involved in Saudi-led Coalition operations” but the Saudi briefing confirms that we are in the command centre.

The problem is that a range of non-military targets are being hit including schools and medical facilities.  A total of around 3,000 have been killed since hostilities began.  Médécins san Frontières have reported missile hits on one of their medical facilities although they are uncertain of the origin of the weapons concerned.

Campaign Against the Arms Trade are stepping up their legal campaign and have issued a ‘letter before action’ for judicial review, challenging decisions to continue to export arms to Saudi Arabia despite increasing evidence that they are violating international humanitarian law.  (11 January 2016)

Amnesty have pointed out that provisions of the Arms Trade Treaty – which the UK is party to – prohibit us from exporting arms transfers if they have knowledge that the arms would be used to commit attacks against civilians, civilian objects or other violations of international humanitarian law.  It said there was “a pattern of appalling disregard for civilian lives displayed by the Saudi Arabia-led military coalition”.  There is also a risk of famine because of the blockade on Yemeni ports.

That our government and service personnel are somehow involved in this is shocking.

Sources: Daily Telegraph; Daily Mail; the Guardian; CAAT; Reprieve; Amnesty International

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The arming of the Islamic State


Amnesty publishes a report on arming of IS

Last week we had the debate in Parliament about bombing the Islamic State IS or Da’esh as some call it.  This was occasioned by the outrage in Paris and the massacre of ordinary people in that city.  Parliament voted in favour of bombing and since then we have had recriminations in the Labour party between those who voted for and those against.

It is timely therefore that a report has been published by Amnesty International called Taking Stock: the Arming of the Islamic State.  All politicians should read it.  As we have noted several times on this blog, one cannot but help notice that when pictures are shown of IS fighters, they are well equipped and armed to the teeth.  So where do all these arms come from?  The report explains where and how in great detail.

The major source is Iraq supplemented by materiel taken from the Syrian army.  The Iraq weapons were supplied by the coalition forces but because they were irresponsibly guarded, it was easy for them to be stolen or looted.  As the report puts it, ‘there were decades of irresponsible arms transfers to Iraq principally by Russia, France and China.’

The supply and transfer of weapons was governed by a global treaty adopted by the UN in 2013.  It places international human rights law, humanitarian law and criminal law standards alongside other international benchmarks for assessing the authorisation of exports and other transfers of conventional arms.

The report documents the astonishing amount of weaponry possessed by IS (the range and types are listed at the end).  Although a total of 25 countries have been identified as suppliers – including some from the former Soviet Union – it is the Security Council members P5 who are the main culprits.

The Iraq invasion cast a long shadow over the region.  Arms were poured in and in the chaos, thousands of weapons were lost to the militants.  The Arms Trade Treaty was designed to put a stop to irresponsible activity and it will take a long time to take effect.  We noted in an earlier blog that the UK and the US continues to supply Saudi Arabia which is bombing Yemen creating fertile ground for the next wave of insurrection.

It is much to be regretted that the House of Commons would not be packed or buzzing with excitement if the question of arms supplies was being debated.  Yet unless and until arms supplies are curtailed to regions such as the middle east, organisations like IS will prosper in the chaos.  Bombing the result seems a little pointless.  

 

 

IS arms report

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