Campaigners urge G20 to ensure end to bombing of Yemen


Saudi forces have led a five year bombing of Yemen, with arms provided by many G20 countries. The UK has licensed at least £5.4 billion worth of arms since the bombing began, with the actual level of arms sales being far higher.

Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT) has urged G20 leaders to ensure that they use this weekend’s summit to work towards ending the conflict in Yemen. The summit is being hosted by the Saudi Arabian regime, which has led a brutal bombardment on Yemen since March 2015.

The war has created the worst humanitarian crisis in the world, with some estimates putting the death toll at over 100,000 people. Many of the G20 participants have provided arms for the war; including the US, UK, France, Germany and Italy.

Since the bombing of Yemen began in March 2015, the UK has licensed £5.4 billion worth of arms to the Saudi regime, including:£2.7 billion worth of ML10 licences (Aircraft, helicopters, drones). £2.5 billion worth of ML4 licences (Grenades, bombs, missiles, countermeasures). In reality the figures are likely to be a great deal higher, with most bombs and missiles being licensed via the opaque and secretive Open Licence system.

The UK’s biggest arms company, BAE Systems, has made £15 billion in revenue from services and sales to Saudi Arabia since 2015.

In June 2019, the Court of Appeal ruled that the government acted unlawfully when it licensed the sale of UK-made arms to Saudi-led forces for use in Yemen without making an assessment as to whether or not past incidents amounted to breaches of International Humanitarian Law. This followed a case brought by CAAT. The government was ordered not to approve any new licences and to retake the decisions on extant licences in a lawful manner.

In July 2020 the government announced that it was resuming arms sales. This followed a review by the Department of International Trade which concluded that any violations of International Humanitarian Law committed by the Saudi coalition were ‘isolated incidents’, despite the fact that hundreds of attacks on residential areas, schools, hospitals, civilian gatherings, and agricultural land and facilities have been documented. In October 2020, CAAT filed a new legal challenge against the government’s decision to resume sales.

Andrew Smith of Campaign Against Arms Trade said: “The G20 summit gives a big propaganda coup to the Saudi Royal Family, allowing it to whitewash its abuses behind a veneer of ‘modernisation’ and boost its standing on the world stage.

“The reality is that the Saudi regime has an appalling human rights record and a long history of repression and targeting human rights campaigners. Those campaigners must be freed. Unfortunately, many of the leaders who expressed their outrage over the murder of Jamal Khashoggi are all too happy to partake in the charade.

“Over the last five years, Saudi forces have inflicted a brutal bombardment on Yemen. The war has only been made possible by the arms sales and support that has come from some of the leaders than will be joining them this weekend, including the UK. After years of conflict, and with COVID spreading, the crisis is only getting worse. The bombing must stop and so must have the arms sales that have enabled it.”