Other than its terrible history of colonialism, the UK has not done too badly in terms of domestic protection of equality before the law for all of its citizens regardless of race, colour, creed or gender.
In the international arena Great Britain has particularly in the 21st century made a concerted effort to align itself with the protection of human rights and the global democratisation particularly in Africa, where many former colonies of the British protectorate are located.
The recent announcement in London by the British International Trade secretary Liz Truss that Westminster has resolved to resume arms sales to the discredited regime in Saudi Arabia left humanitarian groups perplexed.
Saudi-led forces have bombed the neighbouring Yemen beyond recognition and probably beyond repair since the start of the war with the Houthi rebels in 2015.
Global appeals for restraint have fallen on arrogant and deaf Saudi ears. To date, the conflict has cost more than 100 000 lives, majority of those innocent men, women and children of Yemen nationality.
In fact to date, more than 80% of Yemenis have been left in desperate need of humanitarian assistance. The UN International Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has described the Saudi-led annihilation of powerless Yemen as a crisis of “cataclysmic proportions”.
Hence the widespread bewilderment at the UK government’s decision to resume supplying Saudi Arabia with arms. The decision has left activists across Britain aghast more so in the light of a landmark court ruling in June 2019 declaring arms sales to Riyadh unlawful.
At the time of the ruling No:10 immediately suspended lucrative arms sales to the oil-rich Gulf state, saying the government would keep the suspension in place while it conducted a review.
Lo and behold, the outcome of the review now reveals that although the UK government found “credible incidents of concern” in the behaviour of the Saudi’s continuous bombing and shelling of Yemeni, Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s government saw the excesses as “isolated incidents”. This decision London took despite expressing a view that the Saudis actions were a “possible breaches of international humanitarian law”.
To put it bluntly, it is war crimes that Saudi Arabia stand accused of. And buy all accounts, on the strength of evidence gathered by human watch groups, Riyadh as guilty as charged.
Britain’s backing of the Saudis further makes a mockery of Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab’s recent introduction of the so-called “global sanctions regime”. This is supposed to be aimed at “people that have committed the gravest human rights violations” around the world.
Just days before the shocking announcement of the resumption of arms sales to Saudi Arabia, secretary Raab revealed that the UK government has unleashed sanctions on 20 Saudi nationals held responsible for the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi which attracted global condemnation.
The 20 faces asset freeze and visa bans, a sanction that now seems like a joke in the light of the light of the subsequent announcement of strengthening of ties between Westminster and Riyadh.
In the aftermath of a mercy Brexit, the UK would do itself a great favour by aligning its foreign policy with human rights proponents instead of entering into dodgy deals with discredited regimes who possess tons of blood money.
Britain has one of the world’s most active civil societies and I believe that Boris Johnson’s government will continue to face growing opposition to its collaboration with murderous regimes.
The Saudis need to be isolated, not insulated from scrutiny. The Yemenis and many other victims of the Western-backed belligerent Saudi-led massacre of innocent people in Yemen will come back to haunt the British in a way imperialism has blighted their history.
As we speak the Saudis have remorselessly bombed Yemen schools, hospitals, weddings, funerals, food infrastructure – the list is endless. Britain shouldn’t be arming a blood-thirsty regime such as this. The UK courts have said stay away from them. Uphold the rule of the law, for Yemenis’ sake!