UK govt. censoring documents on past military ties with Saudi regime
The UK government has blocked the public release of nearly 1,000 documents detailing sensitive data about the country’s past military deals with Saudi Arabia.
The censored files from 1986 and 1987 include at least 15 documents that directly discuss Saudi Arabia and include details on the “sale of Tornado and Hawk aircraft” and “training for Saudi Arabian special forces,” The Times reported Thursday.
London has also refused to release an additional 27 documents connected to Prince Charles and Lady Diana’s visit to the Middle East in 1986.
Normally, the government is required to declassify all documents held in various departments after 30 years and pass them on to the National Archives at Kew. However, departments can ask for a specific document to be withheld or redacted.
The Advisory Council on National Records and Archives, which rules on such requests, said in its annual report that the requests were on the rise, meaning that more documents were being withheld.
In 2015-16, for example, the council received a total of 952 censorship requests and rejected only four of them. In 2014, 793 requests came in while only three were rejected. In 2016, both figures increased as 22 requests out of 986 were overturned.
“This report suggests there is still a culture of opacity within many government departments,” said Robert Barrington, the executive director of Transparency International UK.
“A lack of disclosure can often lead to concerns that the government has something to hide and therefore transparency is the best measure to ensure public trust,” he added.
The UK Home Office has also been under pressure to release the “very sensitive” findings of an investigation into Saudi Arabia and its funding of extremist groups operating in the UK.
The inquiry was authorized in 2015 by former Prime Minister David Cameron in exchange for Liberal Democrat support for the extension of UK airstrikes against alleged terrorist positions in Syria.
Saudi Arabia has been incessantly pounding Yemen since March 2015. The UK has been providing the Riyadh regime with weapons and intelligence in the unprovoked war.
Last week, the UK High Court issued a ruling, saying that the government was not breaking the law by continuing to sell arms to Saudi Arabia. This means that the UK would remain as the second largest arms provider to the Arab kingdom.