1 March 2013
THE Green Party’s national spring conference, meeting in Nottingham last weekend, has highlighted the grave concerns about Britain’s sales of arms to Saudi Arabia, in light of the appalling human rights track record in both states.
An emergency motion which received unanimous support noted the concerns in the light of the ongoing Foreign Affairs Select Committee hearing into the UK’s relationship with Saudi Arabia.
Natalie Bennett, Green Party leader, noted that the Campaign Against Arms Trade has calculated that Britain spends £700m a year subsidising the arms trade, with Saudi Arabia its largest customer, and that the government again plans to invite dubious and dreadful regimes from around the world to a big arms fair in London in 2013, as it did in 2012.
Natalie said: “Nine million Saudi women and girls lack the rights to even basic freedom of movement, nine million foreign domestic workers are subject to abuse and mistreatment with no effective recourse to the law, and attempts to campaign for even modest reforms are met with repression and ill-treatment. There’s also great cause for concern about the Saudi state’s use of the death penalty.
“Yet although the British government includes Saudi Arabia in its "country of concern" section in its annual report on human rights and democracy, it rarely makes public statements of concern about the rights situation within Saudi.
“And, since the start of 2008 we’ve seen export licences worth more than £4bn approved for Saudi Arabia. These are weapons that are helping maintain a repressive, abusive state.
“The Arab Spring demonstrated how quickly apparently stable regimes can fall, and there’s no guarantee where these arms could eventually end up – although where they are now is bad enough.”
Green Party conference also highlighted the fact that at the 2012 BAE AGM the company chair failed to answer a question as to whether there were any circumstances under which BAE would cease taking orders from the Saudi Army or cease collaborating with them.
Natalie said: “BAE has approximately 5,000 staff members in Saudi Arabia, many of them expatriates, and the work of this private commercial entity has often been supported by the British government, including by David Cameron’s November 2012 trip to the country.”
Green Party conference also called for the publication of the National Audit Office investigation of the Al Yamamah deal, completed in 1992, to be published. (This is the only NAO report ever not published after being presented to parliament.)