See you in The Hague!

Last week, a coalition of European and Yemeni groups, including CAAT, submitted a dossier to the International Criminal Court in The Hague, asking them to investigate European government and arms company officials for potentially aiding and abetting war crimes in Yemen.

Saudi Arabia and their coalition partners have been bombing civilians in Yemen ever since they entered the war there in March 2015. According to the Yemen Data Project, almost a third of coalition air strikes have been against civilian targets, and in another third of cases the nature of the target was uncertain. Around 100,000 people in total have been killed since the war started.

War crimes

The UN Panel of Experts on Yemen, as well as numerous Yemeni and foreign NGOs have documented hundreds of cases of specific attacks against residential areas, schools, hospitals, agricultural facilities, market places, gatherings such as weddings and funerals, and civilian factories, many of which have killed dozens of civilians, and where no military target has been in evidence nearby. These attacks are very likely to be violations of International Humanitarian Law (IHL – often known as the “laws of war”), and many may be severe enough to be classed as War Crimes. Meanwhile, the Saudi-led partial blockade of the country’s air and sea ports has helped create a devastating humanitarian crisis that has already killed tens of thousands, and has put 24 million people in need of humanitarian assistance. There is a strong case that Saudi Arabia and its allies have been using starvation as a weapon of war, which would also be a war crime.

Who is responsible for these probable war crimes? And who can be held to account for them. Of course, those most directly responsible are the military and political leaders in Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), and other coalition members, who are waging the war, and the military officers who order and carry out attacks. Unfortunately, as Saudi Arabia and the UAE, and most of their coalition partners, are not signatories to the International Criminal Court (ICC), and neither is the Yemen where the crimes take place, the actions of these leaders and officers fall outside the jurisdiction of the ICC.

However, responsibility for the crimes goes well beyond those directly engaged in the war. Campaigners have long argued that those who supply the arms used to wage wars and commit such atrocities, while knowing full well how these arms are being used, share the moral responsibility. This includes both the companies that produce and sell the weapons, and the governments that sanction and promote the deals. But can they also be held legally accountable for their role in enabling war crimes?

Holding the guilty to account

Last week in The Hague, on the 11th of December, a coalition of groups, including CAAT, launched an effort to do just that, submitting a 350-page Communication to the ICC, asking the Office of the Prosecutor (OTP) to launch an investigation into whether senior arms company executives and government officials (political or civil service) involved in arms export decisions, may be responsible for aiding and abetting war crimes in Yemen. The coalition is led by the European Centre for Constitutional and Human Rights (ECCHR), a group of lawyers who pursue international human rights cases, and also includes Mwatana for Human Rights (a Yemeni NGO that documents abuses by all sides in the Yemen War), Amnesty International, Centre Delas (Spain), and Rete Disarmo (Italy).

The Communication lists five countries as key suppliers of the Saudi-led coalition: the UK, France, Germany, Italy, and Spain. The companies listed include those selling fighter aircraft to the Saudi-led coalition:

  • BAE Systems (UK), producers of the Tornado and Typhoon aircraft used by Saudi Arabia;
  • Airbus Defence & Space S.A. (Spain), co-procuers of the Typhoon;
  • Airbus Defence & Space GmbH (Germany), co-producers of the Typhoon;
  • Leonardo (Italy), co-producers of the Typhoon;
  • Dassault Aviation (France), maker of the Mirage fighters used by UAE;

Other companies named are those selling bombs, missiles, and related equipment used in the war:

  • MBDA UK Ltd.;
  • MBDA France;
  • Raytheon Systems Ltd. (UK);
  • Rheinmetall (Germany) through its subsidiary RWM Italia S.p.A. (Italy);
  • and Thales, who produce targeting equipment used to deploy the weapons.

As well as supplying a large proportion of the aircraft that make up the Saudi and UAE’s air strike force, the companies concerned also provide ongoing supplies of spare parts, maintenance and repair, technical support, and training, necessary to keep the aircraft flying. BAE Systems in particular has 6,300 employees in Saudi Arabia, without whose work the UK-supplied Tornado and Typhoon aircraft – more than half the Saudi strike force – would quickly be grounded.

While Yemen, Saudi Arabia, and UAE are not party to the ICC, the five European countries are. Thus, the Communication argues, the decisions taken by these governments and companies to export arms, provide services, and issue export licences, are taken on the soil of ICC participant countries, and are thus subject to the jurisdiction of the ICC.

ECCHR have produced a case report, and a set of Q&A, with more details about the case.

This case… may serve as a reminder to all those involved in arms export decisions… that their choices have potentially deadly consequences, for which they may one day be held to account.

The ICC and CAAT’s Judicial Review

This is of course not the only legal case relating to this issue; CAAT’s own Judicial Review case against UK arms sales to Saudi Arabia, following our June 2019 victory in the Court of Appeal, where the judges ruled that the UK Government’s approach to approving export licenses for arms that could be used in Yemen was “irrational and therefore unlawful”. The Government has been granted leave to appeal to the Supreme Court, and we await a court date.

The case before the ICC, however, is of a very different nature, equally and important and complimentary to the Judicial Review. CAAT’s case is a matter of administrative law regarding government policy, and if successful it could force the government to change the way it goes about export licensing – in the best case, it might force a complete halt to arms sales to Saudi Arabia and other coalition countries so long as the air war in Yemen is ongoing. The ICC case, however, is a matter of personal, criminal responsibility for war crimes, specifically the crime of aiding and abetting such war crimes through the supply of arms. At present, no specific individuals are accused; what the Communication is asking is for the OTP to investigate which individuals in the governments and companies concerned might be responsible for any potential crimes.

The road to actually placing any government ministers or officials, or arms company executives, in the dock at The Hague, is a very long one, and it is possible that no charges will ever be brought. But the principle that those who commit, or who enable and assist in the commission of war crimes, should be held accountable for their actions is of incredible importance. It would be better if leaders and senior officers and officials of the countries actually waging the war could also be held to account; perhaps it will be in the future. But so long as this case is live, it may serve as a reminder to all those involved in arms export decisions, whether at a government or corporate level, that their decisions have potentially deadly consequences for the people on the receiving end of their weapons, for which they may one day be held to account.

Malvern activists challenge arms fair!

The Three Counties Defence and Security Arms fair in Malvern in July hosted some of the world’s biggest manufacturers of weaponry, including BAE Systems and Thales. This is business at a massive cost – a human, environmental, and social disaster. But local activists were there to challenge it.

If you’re a Malvern local and interested in further action, email kat(at)caat.org.uk to get in touch with the group.

activists cluster around the Qinetiq sign with placards and banners
Activists protest outside Qinetiq in Malvern

Continue reading “Malvern activists challenge arms fair!”

Street art withdrawn from Science Museum over Saudi arms links

Increasingly, arms companies are sponsoring public events and spaces in order to boost their profiles and increase their profits. This has caused artists and performers to take action and demand better. In this blog, a member of the Protest Stencil art collective explains why they removed their work from the Science Museum in London.

Last week a new exhibition opened at the Science Museum in London, just in time for the summer holidays. One of our posters was going to be in the show, but we’ve had to pull out. Here’s why…

Back in March, the Science Museum got in touch saying they were planning an exhibition about data and data breaches. They asked if they could have one of our Facebook adhack posters from last year, “Data misuse is not our friend, it’s our business model”. Those posters got a lot of attention, so it wasn’t surprising the Science Museum had heard about them.

Keep on reading!

UK arms sales to Saudi for use in Yemen ruled unlawful

In the last few minutes the Court of Appeal has ruled that UK arms sales to Saudi Arabia for use in Yemen are unlawful.

Activists celebrate the Court judgment ruling arms sales to Saudi unlawful
Activists celebrate outside the Royal Courts of Justice as the verdict is announced.
Credit: Darren Johnson

The Court of Appeal concluded that it was ‘irrational and therefore unlawful’ for the Secretary of State for International Trade to have granted licences without making any assessment as to whether violations of international humanitarian law had taken place.

This historic judgment means that the government must now stop issuing new arms exports licences, and retake all decisions to export arms to Saudi in accordance with the law.

We celebrate this historic verdict. But these weapons sales should never have been licensed in the first place. It should not take a group of campaigners taking the Government to court to force it to apply its own rules.

It shouldn’t take four years of schools, hospitals, weddings, and funerals being bombed. It should not take tens of thousands of deaths and the worst humanitarian crisis in the world.

We must also question a system – and the priorities of government – that have allowed the continuing provision of arms in these circumstances.

CAAT Media Coordinator Andrew Smith is interviewed outside the Court of Appeal following the verdict. Credit: Darren Johnson

This isn’t the end.

The government is likely to continue to fight this decision, even now. So now is the time to ramp up the pressure and make sure they finally prioritise human lives over arms trade profits.

Email your MP today to demand an immediate end to arms sales to Saudi Arabia and UK support for war in Yemen. #StopArmingSaudi

A view from inside the UK’s biggest arms company

Photo by Alan Wilson.

Every year, CAAT activists attend the Annual General Meeting of the UK’s biggest arms company, BAE Systems. We do this so that we can challenge the Board face to face and expose the hypocrisy and greed at the heart of the arms trade. One campaigner who attended this year was Arabian activist, Ameen Nemer. Here he reflects on his reasons for going and how he found the experience.

I attended because I wanted to provide a voice for Arabian people. The absolute monarch does not represent the people in Arabia. The House of Saud tries to kidnap our voices. BAE has fallen for the propaganda and presents the regime as a liberating force. I attended so that I could tell the Board and shareholders about what is really happening to my people and land.

I am sure the BAE AGM will be happy not to have that voice which reminds them of the dirty job they are doing. No matter how nice they present themselves using polite language and advance technology, criminals are still criminals. They need to be exposed, and CAAT is doing a great job.

Shareholders got to direct questions to BAE’s Chair, Roger Carr. He was obviously well-briefed and had prepared answers for questions about the bombing in Yemen. His words may have been delivered with confidence, but they were morally bankrupt.

Continue reading “A view from inside the UK’s biggest arms company”

Wars, occupation, oppression, and corruption fuel a surging Middle East arms race

New SIPRI arms transfers data shows small overall increase in global trade, but huge increase in sales to the Middle East.

Graphic showing map of states in the Middle East with bubbles for each country indicating level of arms imports. Heading: Arms imports by states in the Middle East. Subheading: The volume of arms imports in SIPRI trend-indicator values is depicted by the size of the circle. 2014-2018. Source: SIPRI Arms Transfers Database. Copyright SIPRI 2019.

The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) yesterday releasedits latest data on the global arms trade, for which it is by far the best source. The data provides details of deliveries of major conventional weapons worldwide from 1950-2018, both in numerical terms and with searchable lists of the actual weapons transferred between countries. The information can be found in SIPRI’s database, and some of the key points are discussed in a fact sheet also published yesterday.

Continue reading “Wars, occupation, oppression, and corruption fuel a surging Middle East arms race”

Saudi-British relations: silenced oppressions & complicity

Photo by Ryan Ashcroft

Last month CAAT and the CAAT Universities Network co-hosted a very important meeting at the School of Oirental and African Studies, London.

The murder of Jamal Khashoggi’s has put the UK-Saudi relationship under more scrutiny than ever before. Unfortunately there has been more scrutiny of his murder than of the death and destruction that Saudi forces have inflicted on Yemen, and of the ongoing human rights abuses for those living and working in Saudi Arabia and those affected by Saudi Arabia’s international policies. On the 19th November, we co-hosted an event on ‘Saudi-British relations: silenced oppressions & complicity’.

Continue reading “Saudi-British relations: silenced oppressions & complicity”

“AngloArabia” – talk by David Wearing, hosted by London CAAT

 

David Wearing points to Bahrain on a projected map of the Middle East
David Wearing discusses the links between Britain, Saudi Arabia and Bahrain

Earlier this month author David Wearing spoke in London on Britain’s military and economic support for Saudi Arabia, and the UK connection with the war in Yemen.

Continue reading ““AngloArabia” – talk by David Wearing, hosted by London CAAT”

#SaudiPrinceNotWelcome – Our Open Letter

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman, principal architect of the war on Yemen which has devastated the country and caused what the UN has called a “humanitarian catastrophe”, has been invited to the UK. On 25th January, Lucie Kinchin from CAAT joined with representatives from other NGOs and human rights organisations to hand in an open letter to say he is not welcome here.

Protesters outside Downing Street
Demonstrators outside Downing Street

Continue reading “#SaudiPrinceNotWelcome – Our Open Letter”