David Cameron’s government has sold £5.6 billion of arms to Saudi Arabia since it first came in power, the Campaign against Arms Trade (CAAT) organization said.
According to CAAT, the British government sold Hawk fighter jets, machine guns, bombs and tear gas. Overall, according to the CAAT report, the British government has sold arms to 24 of the 27 states that it considers to be “countries of humanitarian concern.”
The Saudi Arabia regime was heavily criticized by many people around the world, for deciding to mass execute 47 people over terrorist charges. The killing of Shia cleric, Sheik al-Nimr, who only expressed his vocal support for enforcing the rights of Shia minority in Saudi Arabia, was the execution which concerned the most the international community.
Besides the mass executions, the involvement of Saudi Arabia in the catastrophic war in Yemen also sparked the outrage of many humanitarian groups. The Saudi-led coalition, has bombed hospitals, schools, a center for blind people and the humanitarian NGOs are asking for a war crimes inquiry in the impoverished Middle East country. According to British daily, The Telegraph, Saudi Arabia has access to twice as many British-made warplanes in its bombing campaign in Yemen than the entire Royal Air Force.
“The overriding message is that human rights are playing second fiddle to company profits,” CAAT spokesperson Andrew Smith told The Independent and added. “The income of BAE is being put over the rights of people being executed and tortured. It’s completely inconsistent to condemn these regimes while signing off on billion-pound arms deals.”
“Two-thirds of UK arms exports go to the Middle East, and that’s unlikely to change. We know that Saudi Arabia is arming a number of groups in and around Syria, but we’ve no idea what weapons are being sent there. Once a weapon enters a war zone there’s no such thing as arms control,” Smith said.
Of course, Britain is not the only country arming Saudi Arabia. According to IHS Jane’s report, Saudi Arabia overtook India in 2014 as the world’s biggest importer of defence equipment.
In general, most of the “Western” governments have sold weapons or security equipment to the oil-rich country. For instance, according to a research by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute the US companies sold most of their products to the Middle East between 2010 and 2014. Moreover, 20 percent of the German and French military exports, in the same period, went to Middle East.
According to SIPRI, 23 per cent of the arms transfers to the Middle East went to Saudi Arabia, 20 per cent to the UAE and 16 per cent to Turkey. The USA accounted for 47 per cent of total arms supplies to the region, Russia for 12 per cent and the UK for 10 per cent.