On fourth anniversary, CAAT says Yemen war ‘not possible’ without UK-US support

Ben Wray

Yemen in midst of worst humanitarian crisis in the world primarily due to Saudi bombing, according to the UN

  • UK sold almost £5 billion in arms to Saudi Arabia since bombing campaign of Yemen started in 2015, as well as logistical support and pilot training
  • Cholera epidemic in Yemen has surged over last month, according to Save the Children, with two million children under the age of five in need of urgent treatment for acute malnutrition
  • Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt sought to defend Saudi arms sales on fourth anniversary of Yemen war, but Campaign Against the Arms Trade say humanitarian catastrophe “not possible” without UK-US support
  • CAAT taking the government to court over arms sales to Saudi Arabia for use in bombing Yemen on 9-11 April

THE Campaign Against the Arms Trade (CAAT) has renewed calls to end arms sales to the Saudi regime on the fourth anniversary of the Yemen war, as suspected cholera cases have surged to 40,000 in the last two weeks.

The UN has said the humanitarian crisis in Yemen is the worst in the world, and perhaps the most severe in the post-war era, with over 13 million people on the verge of famine.

International agencies working in Yemen are agreed that the Saudi bombing campaigning in the gulf country is the primary reason for this disaster, with over 60,000 people killed since the war began, most of them civilians.

The UK has licensed almost £5 billion in arms sales to Saudi forces since the bombing began in 2015, with £2.7 billion worth of Aircraft, helicopters and drones sold, and £1.9 billion worth of grenades, bombs, missiles and countermeasures. 

READ MORE: Revealed: Saudi pilots trained by the RAF in Wales

A recent report from Mwatana for Human Rights, a Yemeni based human rights group, has linked UK-made bombs to attacks on civilian infrastructure.

The UK has also provided logistical support to Saudi bombing operations, and has trained Saudi pilots in the UK.

Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt sought to defend the UK’s arms sales in an article on Politico.EU on Tuesday, stating: “Some argue that Britain has contributed to the crisis because of arms sales to some of the participants. In fact we have some of the strictest arms control export guidelines in the world and I have made the quest for a political solution in Yemen a central priority for British diplomacy. Despite Brexit, my focus on Yemen has not wavered.”

READ MORE: ‘Condemnation will not do’: SNP’s Iain Blackford challenges May over Saudi arms sales at PMQs

Responding, Andrew Smith of CAAT said the death and destruction “would not be possible” without the Saudi’s backing by the UK and other western backers.

Smith said: “The humanitarian crisis in Yemen is the worst in the world. Tens of thousands of people have been killed. No matter how bad the situation has become, Jeremy Hunt and his colleagues have put arms company profits ahead of the rights and lives of Yemeni people.

“This terrible war would not be possible without the political and military support of arms dealing governments like the UK. As the war enters its fifth year it has only become more urgent that they do the right thing, and finally end the arms sales.”

CAAT has brought a case to the Court of Appeal on the legality of UK arms sales to Saudi Arabia for use in Yemen, which will be heard on 9-11 April.

READ MORE: Analysis: Backing Saudi Arabia leaves the UK with zero moral authority in the world

The spike in suspected cholera cases was reported by Save the Children earlier on Tuesday [26 March], with children making up more than a third of the 40,000 new cases in the last two weeks, who are more likely to contract and die from the disease.

The surge in cholera cases was 150 per cent higher than the same period last month. 

Two million children under the age of five will need treatment for acute malnutrition this year, according to the United Nations.

Tamer Kirolos, Save the Children’s Yemen Country Director, said: “A massive outbreak will be yet another killer for children left starved and weakened by four years of war. The tragedy is cholera can be easily prevented with access to clean water and basic hygiene. But that’s where we are right now. 

READ MORE: Revealed: Minutes show no evidence @ScotGov agencies prioritise defence diversification in support for arms companies

“Yemen’s sewage system, which was already lacking before the conflict, is now almost non-existent. There’s an increasing number of people forced to camp out in unsanitary conditions simply to escape the fighting.

“All parties to this conflict, and those supporting them, must take the only responsible action which is to urgently reach a peaceful resolution. Yemen’s children cannot be made to wait while war and deadly disease rage around them.”

The SNP has opposed arms sales to Saudi Arabia, but controversy surrounds the Scottish Government and its agencies’ support for arms manufacturer Raytheon, which has a plant in Fife and has been linked to the bombing of civilian infrastructure in Yemen.

The Scottish Government has said all funding support for arms firms goes towards diversification into civilian applications, but CommonSpace revealed in February that minutes over a two and a half year period from a key industry leadership body in Scotland involving major arms firms and Scottish Enterprise showed no evidence that diversification had been raised.

Picture courtesy of Alisdare Hickson

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