The UK’s international trade secretary, Liz Truss, issued an apology to the Court of Appeal in the country for twice breaching its order passed in June this year to ban arms sales to Saudi Arabia. Liz Truss admitted that the UK had issued two licenses worth USD 54,000 for radio spare parts and an air cooler for the Royal Saudi Land Forces.
Liz Truss’ predecessor, Liam Fox, had given an undertaking to the court that no such licenses would be issued.
Though the amount involved seems insignificant given the size of international arms trade, the fact that these licenses were issued in violation of both the court order and the UK arms export policy made it a significant issue. Liz Truss was forced to issue an apology after Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT) highlighted the violations in court. CAAT is a London-based organization which has mounted a campaign against the UK government for its violations of the country’s arms export policy according to which no licenses should be issued if there is a risk of violation of international humanitarian law.
She wrote about the apology in a letter sent to Labour Party MP Graham Jones who is the chairperson of the Parliamentary Committee on Arms Export Control.
The Labour Party issued a statement rejecting the apology on Monday, September 16, terming it inadequate. According to the statement available on the party’s website, “The people of the United Kingdom do not want to be complicit in fueling the humanitarian crisis in Yemen and the secretary of state must immediately suspend all arms sales to Saudi Arabia.”
Earlier this month, citing an Oxfam report, the Guardian had reported how the UK government is pursuing a dual policy in Yemen. According to the report, the UK tries to present the image of being a human rights defender by providing “humanitarian aid” on the one hand but also does not shy away from earning profits from selling arms to Saudi Arabia and its coalition partners. The latter are responsible for causing the same humanitarian crisis. According to the report, the UK earned eight times more through selling arms to Saudi Arabia and its allies than what it provided as humanitarian aid.
In 2015, the Saudi-led coalition began airstrikes on Yemen and set up a blockade that prevented the supply of essential food items and medicines. It also provided arms and personnel to its ally, the government of Abd Rabu Mansour Hadi. During this time,the UK has sold weapons worth more than USD 7.5 billion to Saudi Arabia and its coalition partners. These acts have led to the killing of thousands of people and left millions on the verge of death due to starvation and lack of essential medical services.
In the same period, the UK government became one of the leading donors to Yemen. It provided humanitarian aid worth USD 955 million to the country.