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BAE Arms: Saudi Kills

Activists released on bail after attempt to disarm BAE fighter jets bound for Saudi Arabia.

Daniel Woodhouse, a Methodist minister from Leeds, and Quaker activist Sam Walton have been released on bail pending charges after breaking into BAE’s Warton site. The pair were arrested at BAE Systems’ airbase in Warton, Lancashire, in the early hours of Sunday 29 January after entering BAE Systems’ Warton site in order to disarm warplanes bound for Saudi Arabia.

Sam and Dan with hammer used 21 years ago

The aircraft are part of a multi-billion pound deal between BAE Systems and the Saudi regime, and were due to be shipped to Saudi Arabia within weeks. Their action came as a panel of UN experts warned that the devastating Saudi-led airstrikes in Yemen, which have caused a humanitarian catastrophe, may be part of “a broader policy of attrition against civilian infrastructure” which may “amount to war crimes.”

On their release, the Reverend Daniel Woodhouse and Sam Walton said:

BAE security found us just metres from war planes bound for Saudi Arabia. We’re gutted that we couldn’t disarm a plane and stop it being used to carry out airstrikes in Yemen. We could have saved lives by preventing Saudi war crimes in Yemen.

The UK government has blood on its hands and we need to do everything we can to stop the transfer of weapons and show these sales are illegitimate. By providing weapons and support Britain is deeply complicit in Saudi war-crimes, and it’s vital that we bring an end to this immoral, abhorrent trade.

The pair released a statement in advance of their action explaining their intentions:

Today we intend to enter BAE Warton, to locate warplanes bound for Saudi Arabia, and disarm them. We take this action in order to prevent the export of weaponry that will almost certainly be used in war-crimes.

This day in 1996, three women entered the same site to disarm a plane being sent to Indonesia to be used in the genocide in East Timor. It is symbolic that we take action on this day to mirror the rightness of their action, which a jury found to be lawful.

Eurofighter Typhoons and Tornadoes sold to Saudi Arabia are being used on combat missions in Yemen. BAE also supplies Saudi Arabia with Hawk jets, used to train the Royal Saudi Air Force, which will almost certainly have been used in Yemen in their ground attack capacity.  Typhoons and Hawk jets are known to be on site being prepared for imminent delivery to Saudi Arabia, and we have seen Saudi Tornadoes there ourselves.

By stopping or even delaying Saudi Arabia having more planes with which to bomb Yemen this action will save innocent lives and prevent war crimes. Our action is therefore necessary to prevent a greater crime. We are clear that the real crime taking place is arming despots, who frequently use arms on their own people, are known to use torture and the death penalty, and who will be using the planes sent from BAE Warton to continue to commit crimes against humanity.

Even if we do not manage to disarm a plane bound for Saudi Arabia, we hope that by openly trying to do so we will endanger future arms deals. The Saudi rulers are notoriously touchy about criticism – they don’t tolerate it at all in their country. Furthermore, they are not just buying arms – they are also buying legitimacy. That is why whenever we want to seal a big deal senior royals and government ministers must fly out and persuade them to buy weaponry. We need to do everything we can to show these sales are illegitimate and stop the government pushing for more sales. We hope that by shining a light on British complicity in Saudi war-crimes we will contribute to ending arms deals with this regime. Therefore even if we do not manage our primary aim of stopping or delaying a plane being used in war crimes through physically rendering it incapable of doing so, this action will still less directly in the future prevent war-crimes by stopping weapons being sold to those that perpetrate them.

This action has been planned over many months. We do not take these steps lightly, but we have no other option. We have been active in opposing the arms trade to Saudi Arabia for years, and in the face of wilful government denial that there is a problem with arming Saudi, including willingness to suspend our own due process of law, and complete unwillingness to consider stopping arming Saudi Arabia, we must take this action.

It is absolutely beyond a shadow of a doubt that BAE’s Typhoons and Tornados are being used by Saudi Arabia in their war in Yemen, where, again beyond a shadow of a doubt, they are committing war crimes – 78% of deaths in Yemen are civilians, 69% of civilian deaths and injuries were caused by air-launched weapons, over 99% of civilian deaths and injuries from airstrikes were by those perpetrated by the Saudi-led coalition. That means 53% of those people killed in Yemen are civilians killed by Saudi airstrikes – a war crime.

A legal analysis from Matrix Chambers found that the UK government is breaking international, EU and UK law by supplying arms to Saudi Arabia in the context of its military intervention and bombing campaign in Yemen. In June 2016, a Judicial Review of the government’s decision to keep selling arms was granted and will be heard in February. In October 2016 two Parliamentary Committees said, “Given the evidence we have heard and the volume of UK manufactured arms exported to Saudi Arabia, it seems inevitable that any violations of international humanitarian and human rights law by the coalition have involved arms supplied from the UK. This constitutes a breach of our own export licensing criteria.”

We probably won’t even make it to a plane bound for Saudi; we will probably get caught and either thrown off the base or arrested, but we have to try. We will carry out this action in the safest way possible and, if we are spotted, we will comply with reasonable requests from BAE personnel and not resist arrest.

We intend this action to be accountable, just as we believe selling weapons to be used in war-crimes must be. Therefore, if we are not spotted we will alert the authorities, rather than attempt to ‘get away with it.’ We fully expect to be arrested and are prepared to spend time in prison if need be. It is for the sake of accountability that we have written this statement in advance and will carry it with us on the action.

~ Reverend Daniel Woodhouse and Sam Walton
Dan with Yemeni flag

17 comments to BAE Arms: Saudi Kills

  • Les Robertson

    Love, Respect and Solidarity✌️

  • susannah

    <3 solidarity x

  • Kevin Crinks OSF

    Britain must sever its ties with Saudi Arabia.

  • Deirdre Clancy

    Well done on the action – solidarity to you.

  • pete

    Leave well alone!!. By your ignorance you could have killed an innocent BRITISH test pilot. Blood would then be on your hands!!!.

    • Skektek

      That simply would not have happened. The activists have stated above that their action was fully accountable. In other words, had they damaged any planes, they would have declared that when arrested. This action was about saving lives, not endangering them.

    • John Harris

      PETE, innocent you say, as if you know this from intimate knowledge of the incident. Do test pilots make such deliveries? Do you not think the Saudis would be making their own pickup and delivery flights? Possibly not.

      Is a test pilot who is involved in the flight testing of machines designed for yes, defence of these islands, but in this case most likely intended to be used for the extraterritorial killing others, especially innocent civilians who do not know if or when death will rain down from the sky, nor do they have anywhere to run to.

      To what standard do you subscribe in determining innocence?

      Does it have an absolute and permanent context, or is it conditional, so if your family were to be killed would the test pilot still count as an innocent, would the designer, the builders, the pilot who is just following orders, and would have no certainty what harm his or her bombs or missiles cause?

      How about a foreign test pilot who tested an aircraft later used to attack a target in which your family is killed, and so on, are these test pilots all innocent, or only if they are British?

      Despite being associated with the business of war and death, so long as you do not do the actual killing or give the order to kill, are you merely an innocent, and I would remind you that the NRA in the USA claims that guns do not kill people, people kill people, so how shall we view this warplane, as an inanimate and harmless object, an innocent essentially, so long as it is not matched with a pilot who knows how to operate it and conduct attacks.

      What shall we say to you, what should we say to you if you attempt to unload a loaded gun, but the gun goes off killing someone? Does this mean you are ignorant, and that you have blood on your hands?

      Can you not allow that we should stand in solidarity with Daniel and Sam for their courageous action in which they attempted to spare you, on this occasion, having any complicity in the delivery of two dangerous machines to a foreign power that is suspected of war crimes, crimes against humanity, possibly ecocide and certainly crimes of aggression?

      If you choose to reply to me, kindly don’t bother to claim you are an innocent. This is being done by our government in all our names, so far as those whose families are the survivors of an attack by this British warplane, will be likely to think about things, in our names, Pete, and that means in your name too.

      Weapons, including these aircraft are sold to foreign powers for profit, for influence, for oil, and on a pretext of British jobs for British workers, also on a pretext of permitting another nation that lacks the capability of producing their own weapons to defend itself, but Saudi Arabia has not been attacked, it is the attacker nation, at the request of one of the sides in the Yemen civil war.

      Such sales, citing the right to a self defence under UN Charter, Chapter 7, Article 51, is always going to be a false validation for weapons sales, expressly because they are sales, and many nations cannot afford the high price tag for such weapons, cannot borrow the money to pay for them, and are therefore denied a sale, and in turn denied the ability to defend themselves, and therefore the right to a self defence, like the ability of an ordinary citizen to defend themselves in a court of law is denied to those who cannot pay.

  • Paul McGowan

    ‘Complicity’ is the key word. The complicity of workers who do not ask for other work, the complicity of Unions who prioritise the protection of jobs, the complicity of investors and pension funds who look no further than their ‘returns’, the complicity of governments who chase lucrative contracts in our name.

  • Trish Whitham

    thank you for your efforts and bringing more publicity to the terrible atrocities in Yemen.

  • thank you for your honesty and courage.

  • Denis Beaumont

    Solidarity and prayers to you both for upholding the official policy of the Methodist Church. (2016 Conference, Memorial M34 and reply)

  • Bob Turner

    Thank you for an honourable act in disheartening and thoroughly dishonorable times.
    In solidarity.Love Bob and Sally Turner

  • Anne Candlin

    Brave men. A necessary action on behalf of Yemenis and on behalf of all those who prioritise life over financial gain. Thankyou.
    21 yrs ago I visited in prison the 4 women(yes, there were four of them) who dismantled the nose-cone of the Hawk jet bound for Indonesia to bomb the innocents of E.Timor.They each were prepared for the fact that they could get long sentences, but were prepared to do time to save the lives of others.
    I also attended their Court Hearing at Liverpool in which John Pilger was called as an expert witness.He and their excellent lawyer helped to get them aquitted.
    Of course, there were also a number of E. Timorese young men who had travelled over here to testify to the bombing raids on Timorese villages by Hawk jets. They, too, landed in prison. I visited them in Lancaster jail.Let us never forget all these exceptional human beings whose compassion and courage brings light to a dark world.

  • A good stand, and a much clearer report than all the others I have seen in actually identifying how current British weapons are being used by Saudi Arabia in Yemen and mostly civilians are being killed. I think the comment by Paul McGowan is especially thought provoking – over 21 years company, governments, unions and investors could have worked together for peaceful hi tech jobs but have morally failed to do so. Also another interesting reminder by Anne Candlin.

  • John Logan

    Glad to see someone from ‘the Church’ taking the Christian faith seriously!

  • Teresa Mitchell

    John Logan, Thank you for your comment.
    There are actually more of us doing this than you perhaps realise. There has been a Christian Network of Campaign Against Arms Trade for many years. Friends and I have taken part in an annual prayer service / vigil at a BAe arms factory at Glascoed, Gwent for many years now as well as raising awareness of the issues.

  • Anne

    My best wishes and strength to you both and those who helped you. Very very well done. This war has been almost invivisble in the media but this is changing thanks to brave people like yourslves.

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