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FOREIGN Secretary Dominic Raab must use his visit to Saudi Arabia to call for human-rights reforms and to finally end arms sales to its regime, anti-arms campaigners demanded today.
Mr Raab began a two-day visit to Riyadh today and the Foreign Office said that he would “engage” with Saudi counterparts on human rights and other areas of “difference.” It was not indicated, however, whether arms sales will be discussed.
Britain has licenced more than £5.3 billion in arms to Saudi Arabia since it began bombing Yemen in March 2015, including for helicopters, drones, grenades, bombs and missiles.
The bombing has created the worst humanitarian crisis in the world, killed tens of thousands of people and destroyed vital infrastructure.
In June 2019, the Court of Appeal ruled that arms licenced to the Saudi-led coalition without assessments on its breaches of international humanitarian law were illegal after a case was brought by Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT).
The government was ordered to not approve any new licences and to retake decisions on extant licences in a lawful manner.
But the ruling did not stop arms from being transferred under extant licences and the government has not published a timeline for the process.
And in the aftermath of the court’s ruling, the government has admitted multiple breaches of the ban on new licences.
CAAT’s Andrew Smith said: “Dominic Raab has said he will raise the crisis in Yemen, but talk is not enough.
“It is a crisis that has been fuelled and exacerbated by British arms sales. Neither Raab nor his colleagues can have any moral authority while they continue to arm and support the brutal Saudi dictatorship and its allies.”
Mr Smith said that the arms sales are both illegal and immoral.
“Despite the appalling humanitarian crisis and the destruction, the government has shown a total disregard for the people of Yemen,” he said.
“If Raab’s visit is to have any kind of positive impact then he must call for an end to the war and implement an immediate embargo on all arms sales to Saudi Arabia and the wider coalition bombing Yemen.”
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