Target: Crispin Blunt, MP
Goal: Stop supplying Saudi Arabia with weapons for war crimes.
Since beginning hostilities in 2015, a coalition of nations led by Saudi Arabia has carried out numerous airstrikes on Yemen, killing or injuring thousands of civilians in attacks on mosques, hospitals, funeral halls, and schools. According to Human Rights Watch, many of these attacks contravene international law and may even constitute war crimes. Despite this, key figures within the UK government continue to promote the sale of billions of pounds’ worth of UK-made weaponry to Saudi Arabia.
In December 2016, after an investigation by Amnesty International, both the UK and Saudi governments admitted that the coalition had used UK-made cluster bombs, an internationally prohibited form of explosive widely condemned for their devastating impact on civilian targets. Although the bombs were sold in the 1980s, before the UK pledged to cease the use or transfer of such weaponry, their ongoing deployment by the coalition represents both the failure of the UK to hold to the spirit of the Convention on Cluster Munitions and an active violation of Yemeni human rights. And this is far from the only transgression of which the UK government is aware: the Ministry of Defense is currently following more than 200 instances in which the coalition’s activities may constitute human rights violations.
Coupled with numerous reports from NGOs and other governments, this should be sufficient evidence that arms sales to Saudi Arabia must be halted, at the very least until a full independent enquiry has taken place. However, the response from the UK government has been muddied and inconsistent at best: in September 2016, it was widely reported that the group responsible for regulating arms sales, the Committee on Arms Export Control, had split into three rival factions and drafted two different reports containing entirely contradictory recommendations. An initial report suggested that there is overwhelming evidence that the coalition is violating international humanitarian law and argued strongly that the UK must cease arms sales to Saudi Arabia. However, a rival faction led by conservative MP Crispin Blunt has called the report one-sided and suggested not only that the UK continue to supply arms to the coalition but that British law could be changed to accommodate this more easily.
Such recommendations have been criticized by government officials and human rights groups around the world, and Campaign Against the Arms Trade has even taken the UK government to court over the matter. As this pressure on the government continues to grow, there has never been a better time to tell Blunt and his faction to support their committee colleagues in demanding the UK stop selling arms to Saudi Arabia.
Dear Mr. Blunt.
I am writing to you concerning your continued support for UK arms sales to Saudi Arabia.
The actions of the Saudi Arabia-led coalition in Yemen have been widely condemned by a variety of international bodies. Human rights groups have suggested that their airstrikes—which have included the use of UK-made cluster bombs—are unlawful and may even constitute war crimes. The United Nations has identified multiple attacks in which there have been significant numbers of civilian casualties. Even countries with strong historical ties to Saudi Arabia such as the U.S. ended weapons sales with them in 2016.
In the face of such international opinion, the UK seems outmoded, dangerously irresponsible, and indifferent to the human rights of the Yemeni people. Accordingly, I urge you to join with your colleagues on the Committee on Arms Export Control in calling for the UK to cease selling arms to the coalition until a full independent investigation has taken place.
[Your Name Here]
Photo credit: Almigdad Mojalli/VOA