Most Britons Against Selling Arms to Saudis

Most Britons Against Selling Arms to SaudisMost Britons Against Selling Arms to Saudis

Almost two-thirds of British people think selling arms to Saudi Arabia—the UK’s largest defense customer—is unacceptable.

The finding comes ahead of this week’s high court case, which has the potential to derail arms sales to the kingdom and could have major consequences for defense exports to other countries too, the Guardian reported.

The case, on Tuesday, comes at a time when Theresa May’s government is keen to promote UK arms exports. In a post-Brexit world, ministers believe the arms industry could be a major beneficiary when the UK establishes new trade deals. 

Last month, May agreed a £100 million ($124 million) deal to help equip the Turkish military with fighter jets.

But an opinion poll conducted for the Campaign Against the Arms Trade suggests the government’s enthusiasm for selling weapons to regimes with questionable human rights records is firmly out of step with public opinion.

The poll shows that 62% of people surveyed think selling arms to Saudis is unacceptable.

More broadly, more than seven in 10 people (71%) think that the UK should not promote the sale of weapons to foreign governments accused of violating international humanitarian law.

The high court case will place all UK arms exports under close scrutiny.

The UK has sold over £3.3 billion worth of arms ($4.12 billion), including fighter jets, bombs and missiles, to Saudi forces since the bombing of Yemen began in March 2015.

A range of international organizations, including a UN panel of experts, the European Parliament and many humanitarian NGOs, have condemned the ongoing Saudi airstrikes against Yemen as unlawful and are backing the rare legal challenge to the government.

Human rights groups, including Amnesty International, allege the airstrikes are in violation of these laws for a number of reasons, including the disproportionate harm done to civilians and civilian infrastructure and the destruction of cultural property.

“The UK government’s repeated refusal to halt arms transfers beggars belief, given the extensive and credible reporting showing the Saudi Arabia-led coalition’s ongoing serious violations of international human rights and humanitarian law, including possible war crimes,” said James Lynch, Amnesty’s head of arms control and human rights.

The government insists all arms exports are subject to strict licensing criteria and comply with international and domestic law.

Caption: The rubble of a house destroyed by a Saudi-led airstrike in Sana’a, Yemen (File Photo)

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