Letter to Prime Minister concerning support of Saudi Arabia’s human rights abuses


Rt. Hon. Theresa May MP
Prime Minister
10 Downing Street

8 September 2016

Dear Mrs May

We write to draw your attention to your government’s continuing insistence on supplying arms to Saudi Arabia despite an increasing acceptance that those weapons are being used to commit human rights abuses in the kingdom’s military campaign in Yemen.

In particular we reference yesterday’s leak of the draft report by the cross party Committee on Arms Exports Control, which said it was likely British weapons had been used to violate international law.

It said: “The weight of evidence of violations of international humanitarian law by the Saudi-led coalition is now so great, that it is very difficult to continue to support Saudi Arabia.”

The conclusion adds to a growing body of evidence that Riyadh is routinely violating international law in its military involvement with Yemen.

As you know, according to an annual UN report on children published on 2 June 2016, the Saudi Arabia-led coalition was responsible for 60% of child deaths and injuries in the Yemen conflict last year.

Both the European Parliament and the House of Commons International Development Committee have recommended an arms export ban.

Medecins Sans Frontiere says the Saudi-led coalition has bombed numerous hospitals it runs in Yemen. Schools and wedding parties have also not been spared.

In light of the growing evidence it is a disgrace that Britain not only continues to supply billions of pounds worth of arms to Saudi Arabia but seems to be bending over backwards in providing the regime with a fig leaf to cover its conduct.

We refer of course to the documented secret negotiations conducted with Saudi Arabia in 2015 (exposed by Wikileaks) to secure that country’s election to the United Nations Human Rights Council, a position that it should never hold given its appalling human rights record particularly in relation to executions and political prisoners.

Now that the British parliament has itself all but called for arms exports to be halted we find it disturbing that your government continues to say that there is not enough proof of violations using British weapons in Yemen to support such a move.

Such a position is becoming more and more untenable by the day and is undermining the credibility of the UK’s stated commitment to upholding human rights in the international arena and uphold international law rather than undermining it.

While we understand the economic benefits military exports bring to the UK the government should never put itself in a situation where they are allowed be employed in human rights violations.

The argument that Britain needs to maintain a healthy relationship with Riyadh because this keeps us safe is actually the opposite of the truth. Far from being partners in the fight against extremism the Saudi authorities are responsible for promoting/exporting sectarian and extremist ideology that threatens innocents outside its borders.

Now the parliamentary committee has removed any doubts that the Saudi regime is guilty of human rights abuses in Yemen the argument that bombing and maiming innocent civilians in Yemen is justified in order to protect ourselves is as morally repulsive as it is untrue.

We call on you to immediately suspend arms sales to Riyadh pending an independent parliamentary review examining whether weapons supplied by Britain have been used to commit human rights abuses in Yemen.

Yours faithfully,

Massoud Shadjareh