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UK ‘hides extent of arms sales to Saudi Arabia’

Categories: Articles:Peacemaking, Articles:Social Justice | Published: 24/06/2018 | Views: 991

The Guardian have reported how Campaign Against The Arms Trade (CAAT) have uncovered information which shows that UK government licences for ‘less sensitive goods’ are being used to hide the scale of bomb sales to Saudi, bombs that go on to hit civilian targets in Yemen.

Hundreds of millions of pounds worth of British-made missiles and bombs have been sold to Saudi Arabia for use in Yemen under an opaque licensing system that makes tracking arms sales more difficult.

The disclosure has prompted accusations that the government is trying to mask the true extent of British-made arms exports to Saudi, a claim denied by the Department for International Trade.

Britain’s role in selling weapons to the Saudis is attracting controversy amid the kingdom’s operations in Yemen, where thousands of people have died and millions have been displaced in a proxy war.

Human rights groups allege that the Saudi-led coalition backing the country’s government has been targeting civilian infrastructure and buildings, something that would constitute a war crime. Iran-backed Houthi rebels fighting the Saudi-led coalition have also been accused of committing war crimes against civilians in the key port city of Hodeidah, now the scene of heavy fighting and where there are fears of an unprecedented humanitarian crisis.

Britain has consistently said that it keeps all arms exports under close scrutiny and that licensing is made on a case-by-case basis. But now a freedom of information request reveals that for the last five years, Britain has been selling Storm Shadow and Brimstone air-to-surface missiles and Paveway IV bombs to the Saudis under what are known as Open Individual Export Licences (OIELs), which the government says are for the export of “less sensitive goods”.

Unlike specific licences, OIELs allow an unlimited number of consignments over a fixed period, typically between three and five years. There is no obligation to publish the total value of the licence after it expires. “Open licences remove the need for the seller to obtain prior approval for each export,” said Andrew Smith of Campaign Against Arms Trade, which submitted the FOI. “It’s an opaque system which has been used to shift extremely sensitive weaponry to the Saudi regime.”

The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, which uses open sources to measure the quantities of arms exported each year, estimates that, since 2013, around 100 British-made Storm Shadow missiles worth £80m, 2,400 Paveway IV bombs worth £150m, and 1,000 Brimstone missiles worth £100m have been sold to Saudi Arabia.  Read on here 

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