Britain is issuing arms licences to Saudi Arabia at an unprecedented rate of almost one a day, making up for months of lost time after the appeal court banned the sale of arms to the Kingdom over allegations that British made weapons are used to target civilian populations.
Official figures released last week revealed Britain’s growing role in the dangerous flow of arms across the globe. The UK is holding its position as the second highest exporter of arms, despite last year’s ruling. Now more details have been uncovered about the trade, prompting allegations of British “complicity” in the humanitarian catastrophe unfolding in Yemen.
“By arming the brutal Saudi dictatorship the UK is making itself complicit in the atrocities and abuses inflicted on Yemen,” said Andrew Smith of Campaign Against the Arms Trade (CAAT). “A return to business as usual will only increase the suffering.” The war in Yemen is only possible because of military support provided by Britain and other governments, he added.
Eighty-seven export licences were granted between 20 June 2019 and last month. However, only 19 licences were issued in 11 of those months, for £15 million worth of “defensive” military equipment such as body armour and navigation systems. This means that most of the licences were issued in just 12 weeks.
Saudi Arabia tops the global table in terms of military expenditure as a proportion of GDP. The Kingdom reportedly has twice as many British-made warplanes as the Royal Air Force.