The UK has almost doubled its arms deals with governments that it has blacklisted as violators of human rights, figures show.
The government of British Prime Minister Theresa May approved some £1.5 billion in arms licenses in 2017, up from £820 million it did the year before, the Campaign Against the Arms Trade (CAAT) pressure group reported Wednesday.
The licenses allowed weapons sales to 18 countries on Home Office blacklist, which includes Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Egypt, Pakistan and the Israeli regime.
Arms deals with Saudi Arabia, which has been running a deadly military aggression against Yemen since March 2015, accounted for £1.13 billion of the total amount, the group said.
Here’s a brief look into the long history of military cooperation between Saudi Arabia and the UK and how those weapons ended up being used against Yemen.
The ruling Tory government is “actively arming and supporting many of the regimes that even it believes are responsible for terrible human rights abuses,” CAAT’s Andrew Smith told The Independent.
“There is little oversight in the system, and no controls over how these arms will be used once they have left the UK,” he added.
“The arms sales being agreed today could be used to fuel atrocities for years to come. Right now UK-made fighter jets and bombs are playing a central role in the Saudi-led destruction of Yemen, and the government and arms companies have totally failed to monitor or evaluate how this deadly equipment is being used.”
“These arms sales don’t just provide dictatorships and human rights abusers with the means to kill, they also give them a huge degree of political support,” Andrews continued.
Saudi Arabia and its allies launched the war on Yemen in March 2015 to reinstall its former Riyadh-allied government. The military aggression has so far killed over 13,600 Yemenis.
The UK has increased its weapons sales by around 500 percent since the onset of the Saudi invasion, according to a report by The Independent. The UK has, so far, sold more than £6 billion worth of arms to the kingdom.
Israel second largest blacklisted buyer
With a total of £221 million of licenses granted, Israel was the second-biggest purchaser of UK arms last year to be featured on the Foreign and Commonwealth Office’s (FCO) human rights priority list.
In its latest version of the watch list, published this week, the FCO blasted Israel for violating the international law during its ongoing occupation of Palestinian lands in the West Bank, East Jerusalem al-Quds and Gaza.
A recent report has revealed that the United Kingdom has licensed the sale of arms to Israel worth $445 million.
It also slammed the Tel Aviv regime’s “systematic policy of settlement expansion,” despite constant calls by the UN, the European Union and many other international organizations to end them.
Bahrain became the third largest buyer on the list, acquiring £30.7 million of British arms in 2017, while Egypt imported £6.5 million and Pakistan, £11.2 million.
CAAT’s figures came amid efforts by British members of Parliament sitting on the Committees on Arms Export Controls (CAEC) to reform the UK’s arms export regime and stop arms sales to blacklisted governments.
In its latest report, the committee called on cabinet ministers to consider imposing a “presumption of denial” when weighing arms sales applications for such countries.
“We believe there must always be a more stringent process in place for any arms exports to such countries,” read the report.