Arab Organisation for Human Rights in the UK: UK grants Saudi Arabia, Egypt and UAE £5.6bn in arms export licences
Arab Organisation for Human Rights in the UK (AOHR-UK) is calling on the UK government to review its role in the sale of arms to a number of Arab governments that are known for gross human rights violation, the stifling of free speech and democracy, and not upholding the rule of law.
These countries include Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, and Egypt. A number of recent International reports, including by the Sanctions Committee of the UN Security Council have highlighted this fact. The Security Council resolution 1970/2011 was tasked with overseeing a ban on the sale of weapons to any parties involved in the conflict in Libya. However, in repeated violation of UN-backed international sanctions regime, the UAE has been exporting so-called “non-lethal” weapons to the Libyan forces of renegade General Khalifa Haftar and his militias. In doing so, the UAE has been playing a destabilising role in the war-torn country, leading to many deaths and prolonging a bloody civil war.
Egyptian armed forces have also lent logistical support to Haftar by bombing several anti-Haftar strongholds in different parts of Libya, using the unfounded excuse that these were terrorists who had been involved in the killing of Egyptian Copts. The Egyptian authorities have used the same pretext to carry out attacks in the Sinai since July 2013. The regime maintains a ban on all media coverage of these attacks, and according to rights groups, Egyptian forces have killed hundreds of civilians and destroyed thousands of homes in the Sinai. Many thousands have also been displaced as a result.
Meanwhile, a Saudi-led coalition has killed hundreds of Yemenis, destroyed scores of homes in addition to obliterating most of Yemen’s core infrastructure. Saudi Arabia has also turned a blind eye to the atrocities committed by UAE in southern parts of the country. The UAE has bought the loyalty of several tribal leaders and formed militias that continue to commit war crimes.
Despite the aforementioned being well documented by rights groups, international observers and academics, the US and other countries, including the UK, continue to sell weapons to these countries. The most recent transaction was a staggering $110 billion arms deal between USA and Saudi Arabia.
According to figures published by the UK Department for International Trade and Export Control Organisation, in the last three years the UK had signed off 946 arms export licenses to sell weapons to the tune of £3.7 billion to Saudi Arabia; 1630 licenses worth £1.24 billion to the UAE; and 318 export licenses worth £163 million to Egypt.
These licences permit the sale of weapons that include spare parts, tanks, armoured vehicles, heavy artillery, light weapons, body armours, machine guns, components for combat aircraft, attack helicopters, electronic warfare equipment, components for military aircraft head-up/down displays, communications equipment, and more. The sale of weapons to these undemocratic and authoritarian regimes will only bring more destruction and death inside and outside their borders at a time when their defence budgets could have been put to better use, such as serving the needs of their citizens.
“We call on the UK government to review our relations with these countries that so flagrantly flout the rule of law, inflict untold hurt on ordinary people by denying their basic civic and human rights. We ask why arms exports to these countries have not been suspended despite reports by the Foreign Affairs Select Committee and the Foreign Office flagging serious human rights violations in Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Egypt.