Stop the flow of weapons to Yemen
The conflict in Yemen has proven difficult to ignore - the world has been shocked by images of civilians killed and maimed; Yemenis who are starving; of schools, hospitals, markets destroyed by bombs with ‘made in the USA’ and ‘made in the UK’ inscribed.
An investigation into weapons being used in the war in Yemen has shown numerous examples of arms supplied by the UK and the US, among others, ending up in the hands of militias including those linked to al-Qaida and Isis. In an apparent abuse of trade agreements by the Saudi- and UAE-led coalition, sophisticated armoured vehicles, rocket launchers, grenades and rifles are among the weapons being purchased from European and US companies and reaching local factions and groups.
A report by journalist Mohamed Abo-Elgheit and the Arab Reporters for Investigative Journalists (Arij) alleges that not only are weapons being openly passed to militias aligned to the Saudi coalition but also to marginalised and feuding groups fighting their own territorial battles. “Where we found abuse of the end user certification system, we sought explanations from the arms companies and government who authorised the sales to the coalition. Many simply turn a blind eye,” said Abo-Elgheit.
Germany, Belgium, the Netherlands, and Norway have now refused to authorise arms export to parties involved in the Yemen conflict, but others refute allegations of diversion breaches, including the USA, the UK, Spain and Canada. Also, the US provides refuelling for the planes that participate in bombing Yemen, intelligence and other logistical equipment. The UK is also providing logistical and intelligence support and British Prime Minister Theresa May has ignored demands to block the sale of UK-manufactured munitions being used in the operation, amid mounting concerns about civilian casualties. In August, at least 43 people were killed in northern Yemen after a coalition air strike struck a school bus in the Houthi controlled area of Dahyan.
“Data shows that between 2011 and 2014 Saudi Arabia and the UAE purchased 2,600 Oshkosh M-ATV mine-resistant ambush-protected (Mrap) vehicles from the US. In 2015, the Abu al-Abbas group received three such vehicles whilst others have fallen into the hands of other Yemeni factions or the hands of Houthis,” Abo-Elgheit said.
The vehicles have been sighted on numerous occasions on all sides of the conflict, leading to Yemeni army officials’ complaints of being less well equipped than the resistance groups. Ahmed Himmiche, coordinator of the Security Council Panel of Experts on Yemen, said: “We learned from sources that some Yemeni fighters had sold their weapons, especially when they did not receive wages.” “Battlefield weapons leaking into domestic arms markets increased the terror attack risk globally.”
Abo-Elgheit used pseudonyms and encrypted message services to reach online networks operating in Taiz. They found a variety of illegal arms trading, documenting dozens of brand new German rifles being sold. Posing as potential buyers, they confirmed the German origins and serial numbers for authentication.
Between July and October Canadian Lav-25 armoured vehicles were spotted six times in Yemeni convoys in Hajjah and Saada. In several cases apparent attempts had been made to erase Saudi markings.
Abo-Elgheit approached manufacturers and governments with his findings to ask what actions would be taken against Saudi Arabia and UAE. H&K failed to respond, the German Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy said it “has no valid evidence” that exports were being used in Yemen but insisted it takes non-compliance seriously. Belgian authorities refused to comment regarding FN Herstal. In response to questions over BAE and Aardvark, the UK’s Department for International Trade said export licences are not required to export minesweepers. BAE did not respond to a request for comment.
Canadian manufacturer General Dynamics declined to comment, but a foreign ministry spokesperson, Allison Lewis, said the government had the power to cancel or suspend export permits, should they “become aware of evidence that the authorised end use of an export is being violated”. The Swiss government said it was unaware of Swiss weapons being used in Yemen and would be investigating the findings. The US defence department also said it would be seeking to investigate.
The US accounted for one third of all global arms sales, with almost half going to the Middle East. The largest individual buyer of US arms was Saudi Arabia. The US is a non signatory of the Cluster Munitions Convention that bans their use, stockpiling and transfer.
Meanwhile, since 2015, the UK government had licensed £4.7bn ($6.2bn) worth of arms to Saudi forces. These include aircraft, helicopters, drones, grenades and missiles. “If Donald Trump, Theresa May and their allies care about the rights and lives of people in Yemen then they must stop the arms sales and end their sycophantic support for the Saudi dictatorship.” Said Andrew Smith of the London-based Campaign Against Arms Trade. The UK is breaking its own laws and fuelling a humanitarian catastrophe by selling arms to Saudi Arabia.
War crimes and grave violations of Humanitarian law go unpunished because their perpetrators are the judge and jury. The world needs to stop the flow of arms that are fueling these human rights violations in Yemen. We can put pressure on countries to stop the transfers, reduce violations and civilian suffering, and drive home the message to the coalition that continued violations will not be tolerated.