Human rights groups urge Theresa May to cancel visit of Saudi Crown Prince

Caitlin Logan

Campaigners denounce government backing of repressive Saudi Arabian regime

A COALITION OF HUMAN RIGHTS organisations has sent a letter to Prime Minister Theresa May, calling for the imminent visit of the Saudi Arabian Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman to be cancelled.

Criticising the UK Government’s relationship to Saudi Arabia, including its licensing of £4.6 bn worth of arms to the regime since 2015, the letter highlights the country’s record of human rights abuses, including “torture, arbitrary detention, and other appalling abuses”.

Signatories to the letter include the Stop the War Coalition, Arab Organisation for Human Rights in the UK (AOHR UK), Bahrain Institute for Human Rights, Bahrain Opposition Block, Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT), Human Rights for Yemen, Iraqi Democrats, and Sheba for Democracy and Human Rights.

READ MORE: Campaigners warns of “toxic” UK arms deals with Saudi Arabia

The letter states: “The Crown Prince has overseen the war on Yemen, creating tens of thousands of deaths and injuries. In the words of the UN, Yemen is facing “the world’s worst humanitarian disaster for 50 years.

“UK made jets and bombs have played a major role in destroying civilian targets and the poor nation’s infrastructure. UK personnel, from the armed forces and BAE Systems, are present in the Saudi operations centre, aiding this catastrophe.

“The Saudi regime has also supported repression in other states, notably Bahrain where its military supported the crackdown on peaceful protestors in 2011.

“Recently, the Crown Prince has established a blockade of Qatar, and held the prime minister of Lebanon in custody. Both of these latter acts were failed attempts to impose regime change on sovereign nations.”

Since 2015, the UK Government has provided £2.7bn worth of aircraft, helicopters and drones, and £1.9bn of grenades, bombs, missiles and countermeasures to Saudia Arabia.

READ MORE: Committee of MPs demand an end to UK arms sales to ‘war criminal’ Saudi Arabia

Over 10, 000 deaths have been confirmed as a result of the bombardment of Yemen, leaving over 22m people in need of humanitarian aid and protection according to a report by humanitarian organisations.

Confirmed in December, the visit of the Crown Prince, who is the second most senior figure in the Saudi regime, is expected to take place in the coming weeks.

The letter to May concludes: “It shames us as a nation to support and associate with a brutal dictator who uses hunger as a weapon, and has allowed the largest cholera epidemic in history to develop in Yemen.

“The interests of the people of Britain, and the peoples suffering from the Crown Prince’s adventurism, are not served by this visit. The invitation must be withdrawn.”

The UK Government announced last month that it would provide £50m in aid to Yemen, with International Development Secretary Penny Mordaunt stating that Saudia Arabia’s tactics in Yemen were in “breach of international humanitarian law”.

However, the SNP’s International Development Secretary Chris Law said the commitment was “not even close to being a drop in the ocean” and called for meaningful action including an immediate end to arms sales.

Picture courtesy of Number 10

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