Yemen carnage: ‘Stop arming Saudi Arabian regime,’ CAAT tells UK govt

A house hit by a Saudi-led air strike that targeted a nearby office of Ahmed Ali Abdullah Saleh, the eldest son of Yemen's former President Ali Abdullah Saleh in Sanaa, Yemen, June 8, 2015. (Reuters/Khaled Abdullah)
Anti-arms trade activists are demanding that the UK stops peddling arms to Saudi Arabia, as the death toll in Yemen passes 2,000. Their call comes as a Saudi blogger faces a decade in prison and 1,000 lashes for expressing his political views.

The 10-year and 1,000 lashes sentence for Raif Badawi was upheld by the Supreme Court in the Gulf kingdom’s capital, Riyadh, last week. The ruling has sparked outrage among social justice groups around the globe.

Speaking Monday, Andrew Smith of Campaign Against the Arms Trade (CAAT) said the human rights situation in Saudi is “dire.”

READ MORE: Saudi airstrikes kill 44, including 20 civilians, in Yemen's capital - reports

READ MORE: 'Stop arming Saudi Arabia!' Anti-war activists protest UK-backed Yemen airstrikes

READ MORE: Yemen crisis: Britain must ensure UK arms not used in Saudi airstrikes – charity

READ MORE: Scotland’s biggest public sector pension scheme has £83mn stake in arms trade

“The fact that it is also the world’s largest buyer of UK weapons is a sign of the real hypocrisy at the heart of UK foreign policy,” he said.

“What right does the UK have to talk about human rights and democracy when its ministers are directly promoting arms sales to a regime that tortures bloggers?”

Over the course of its first four years in government, the previous Tory-Lib Dem coalition plowed ahead with the UK’s well-trodden policy of licensing £3.8 billion worth of arms to Saudi Arabia.

“This included licenses for combat aircraft, components for bombs, weapon sights and tear gas. There is no suggestion that this will change under the current government,” CAAT said.

The charity, which carries out detailed analysis on the global arms trade, insisted that the British government promotes and condones these arms sales.

British ministers have reaped the benefits of intimate ties with Saudi rulers, while UK royals have been “co-opted into promoting arms sales,” CAAT said.

Speaking to RT on Monday, CAAT’s Andrew Smith said the British government is enabling arms companies to profit from oppression.

“The government is working hand in glove with arms companies like BAE Systems that are profiting from the oppression taking place,” he said.

“With the intensification of the crackdown on dissent, and with the humanitarian catastrophe being unleashed on Yemen, we have to ask, what would it take for the UK to finally stop selling arms to this terrible regime?”

RT asked Britain's Foreign Office whether it will continue to preside over UK arms sales to Saudi Arabia.

“All exports of arms and controlled military goods are assessed on a case-by-case basis against the Consolidated EU and National Arms Export Licensing Criteria. Respect for human rights in the destination country is mandatory under these criteria,"a spokesperson for the Foreign Officesaid.

“The Saudi authorities have legitimate defense and security equipment requirements. Saudi Arabia has been the victim of external aggression and domestic terrorist threats over many years. The UK supports efforts by the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) states to improve regional security cooperation. Defense exports to Saudi Arabia and other GCC states are consistent with this policy.”

The Saudi regime has long been criticized by human rights advocates over its oppressive and cruel treatment of women, political dissidents and others.

The Saudi government’s introduction of fresh anti-terror legislation, which casts atheists and political campaigners as enemies of the state, has been decried by CAAT and human rights campaigners worldwide. The autocratic regime also presided over a doubling of executions in 2015.

The humanitarian crisis in Yemen is becoming increasingly worse, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). The group warned on Wednesday that the “unnecessary loss of innocent lives cannot go on.” It said that the crisis-ridden country requires urgent aid.

UK campaigners are calling upon the British government to intervene in the case of blogger and activist Raif Badawi, and demand the Saudi government drop the charges leveled against him.

As British officials met other global leaders at the G7 summit in Germany, calls mounted for the Tory government to condemn Saudi Arabia’s treatment ofBadawi, and demand his immediate release.