UK PM raises human rights concerns with Saudi Arabia despite arms sales

Despite Britain is now the second biggest arms dealer in the world, with most of the weapons fuelling deadly conflicts in the Middle East according to The Independent, UK Prime Minister Theresa May has raised concerns over the conflict in Yemen with Saudi Arabian leaders.

The Independent reported that Theresa May broached the subject along with that of human rights more widely during a bilateral meeting at the G20 in Hangzhou, China.

Sources said Mrs May was able to raise her concerns over the conflict because the UK has “a close and strong relationship” with the Kingdom.

Although, British munitions are in use at the Yemen conflict,The British Government has so far ignored calls to stop selling weapons to repressive regimes, including Saudi Arabia, claiming that its systems for granting licences is robust.

Since 2010 Britain has also sold arms to 39 of the 51 countries ranked “not free” on the Freedom House “Freedom in the world” report, and 22 of the 30 countries on the UK Government’s own human rights watch list, affirmed The Independent.

A full two-thirds of UK weapons over this period were sold to Middle Eastern countries,specially Saudi Arabia which led a military coalition for fighting Houthi rebels in Yemen, and has been accused by the UN of potentially committing war crimes in its military operation in Yemen against Houthis

On 25 August the United Nations’ top human rights official, Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein, called for an international independent inquiry into the Saudi air campaign, said The Guardian.

The UN’s report showed that 60% of the civilian deaths documented in a one-year period resulted from airstrikes carried out by the Saudi-led coalition on weddings, markets, schools and hospitals. In several of those attacks, the UN said it was unable to identify any possible military target.

Customers on the British list included Saudi Arabia, which was sold bombs, missiles, and fighter jets, Israel, which was sold drone components and targeting equipment, and Bahrain, which was sold machine guns.
Assault rifles and pistols were sent to the Maldives, while Turkmenistan was sold guns and ammunition.

“These terrible figures expose the hypocrisy at the heart of UK foreign policy. The government is always telling us that it acts to promote human rights and democracy, but it is arming and supporting some of the most repressive regimes in the world”, Andrew Smith of Campaign Against Arms Trade, told The Independent.