UAE announces $1.1 billion of military deals amid Yemen war criticism

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) said on Sunday (Feb 18) it had signed military deals worth 3.87 billion UAE dirhams ($1.1 billion) with international companies.

A spokesman for the IDEX defense conference said the UAE had also announced military deals worth 1.1 billion UAE dirhams with local companies. ($1 = 3.6726 UAE dirham)

Western states and others have supplied the UAE with more than $3.5 billion worth of arms since the Yemen conflict began.

A biennial arms fair has opened in the UAE as the country faces increasing scrutiny over its involvement in the Saudi-led war in Yemen.

While the war went unmentioned at the opening ceremony of the International Defense Exhibition and Conference in Abu Dhabi on Sunday, it was clearly present in the theatrical show offered to spectators.

In it, a militia threatens an unknown country with both launchpad-based and mobile ballistic missiles. Saudi Arabia has faced over 100 such launches by Yemen’s Houthi rebels into the kingdom.

Among the weapons due to be showcased at the arms fair is a type of Belgian machine gun wielded by Yemeni militia “The Giants”, who are backed by the UAE but not accountable to any government.

Other UAE-backed militia groups in Yemen such as the Security Belt and Elite Forces have also been found to use weapons sold to the UAE by Western companies.

Some of the militias are accused of war crimes and other serious violations.

“It’s a jarring sight to have FN Herstal hawking the Minimi in the UAE after we exposed how the Emiratis illicitly gave this weapon to an unaccountable militia in Yemen,” said Patrick Wilcken, Arms Control and Human Rights Researcher at Amnesty International.

“The ongoing carnage against civilians in Yemen – including at the hands of the Saudi Arabia and UAE-led coalition and the militias it backs – should give serious pause to all states supplying arms.”

Saudi Arabia and the UAE are the leading members of a coalition that has been at war with Houthi rebels since March 2015.

The conflict has killed at least 10,000 people and caused the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.

Western states and others have supplied the UAE with more than $3.5 billion worth of arms since the Yemen conflict began, according to Amnesty International.

Arms sales include aircraft, ships, small arms, light weapons and ammunition.

In 2017, an investigation by the Associated Press and Human Rights Watch revealed that the UAE was running a network of informal detention centers in southern Yemen where hundreds of people were detained and tortured.