Skip to main content

Profiteering from death and human misery

Britain and the US continue to sell arms to the Saudi-led coalition despite reports of serious human rights abuses in the Yemeni civil war, writes FELICITY ARBUTHNOT

OVER JUST 24 hours on Tuesday, Yemeni activists recorded 95 air strikes carried out on civilian areas by the Saudi Arabia-led coalition fighting to restore ousted president Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi.

Those attacks were enabled by vast quantities of British and US arms, with advice from British and US military experts — meaning both countries are deeply implicated in the carnage wreaked on Yemen.

And Tuesday was not unusual. The Legal Centre for Rights and Development records similar numbers of attacks every day.

Yemen has an estimated population of just 26 million and “is one of the driest, poorest and least developed countries in the world,” notes the Rural Poverty Portal.

In 2014, Yemen was ranked 160 of 188 countries by the United Nations human development index. Two-fifths of Yemen’s people live in poverty. Up to half of Yemen’s children are malnourished; 14 million people are living under “emergency” or “crisis” levels of food shortages.

Yet they continue to be pummelled by foreign air attacks.

Some of those 95 air strikes on Tuesday hit a factory and the international airport in the capital Sanaa; 14 civilians were killed and 15 hurt when two houses were bombed in Saada province; a health centre was destroyed and nine houses damaged in Hajjah — and these are just a few examples.

The list of victims goes on, day after day, night after night.

On the day of the Eid al-Adha celebration, at least 21 civilians were killed.

This heartbreak, fear and destruction has been rained down in commensurate devastation near continuously since March 2015.

Saudi Arabia is the lead culprit but in the coalition are also Egypt, Morocco, Jordan, Sudan, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Qatar and Kuwait.

It is ironic to remember Kuwait’s victim status in 1990, when Iraq was threatened with being “reduced to a pre-industrial age” for attacking Kuwait in response to its slant-drilling oil theft from Iraq’s Rumaila oil fields.

Now Kuwait, with a population of about four million, is now in the gang of murderous bullies decimating a poverty-stricken country — perhaps as a thank you to Saudi Arabia for hosting Kuwait’s ruling family when they fled ahead of Iraq’s troops, leaving their subjects to face the onslaught which their theft had generated.

Those who unleashed near-Armageddon on Iraq over an oil dispute are either silent on or participating in Yemen’s nightmare — and as ever money is talking and the US and Britain are selling billions of pounds worth of arms and warplanes.

To add to the irony, a year ago Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to the UN in Geneva was elected to chair a panel of independent experts at the UN human rights council.

The wife of imprisoned Saudi blogger Raif Badawi called it at the time “a green light to flog him.”

And in June this year Amnesty International called for Saudi Arabia to be suspended from the UN human rights council, with Amnesty’s UN chief Richard Bennett saying that “the credibility of the UN human rights council is at stake.

“Since joining the council, Saudi Arabia’s dire human rights record at home has continued to deteriorate and the coalition it leads has unlawfully killed and injured thousands of civilians in the conflict in Yemen.

“To allow it to remain an active member of the council, where it has used this position to shield itself from accountability for possible war crimes, smacks of deep hypocrisy.

“It would bring the world’s top human rights body into disrepute.”

Saudi Arabia’s war crimes in Yemen should have been taken up by the council, he said, but instead “Saudi Arabia cynically used its membership of the council to derail a resolution to establish an international investigation.

“As a member of the human rights council Saudi Arabia is required to uphold the highest standards of human rights.

“In reality, it has led a military coalition which has carried out unlawful and deadly air strikes on markets, hospitals and schools in Yemen.

The coalition has also repeatedly used internationally banned weapons in civilian areas.”

The double standards of the “international community” and its UN “umbrella” is ever breathtaking.

Equally breathtaking is that in July, Britain refused to rule out electing Saudi to its position at the council for a second time, in spite of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein having stated that “carnage” caused by some Saudi coalition air strikes appear to be war crimes.

But then, the Campaign Against Arms Trade database shows that in just the first three months of 2016, Britain sold £533 million worth of arms and military equipment to Saudi Arabia.

Since the start of its attacks on Yemen in March 2015, the total is a eye-watering £3.5 billion — including a £1.7bn deal in May 2015 for warplanes and vital spare parts.

Arms sales above flesh and blood, terror, heartbreak and humanity, every time.


We're a reader-owned co-operative, which means you can become part of the paper too by buying shares in the People’s Press Printing Society.

Become a supporter

Fighting fund

You've Raised:£ 8,011
We need:£ 9,989
15 Days remaining
Donate today