Peace campaigners protest at BAE Systems AGM

Campaigners from the pressure group, Campaign against the Arms Trade (CAAT), which is calling for the UK to stop selling arms to Saudi Arabia, took their fight to the BAE Systems AGM last Wednesday. CAAT had bought shares in the company allowing campaigners to attend the AGM. The protestors held placards up protesting against Saudi Arabia’s use of UK-manufactured planes to bomb Yemen.

The chairman of BAE Systems, Sir Roger Carr, also faced questioning from the peace activists on the company’s role in selling weapons to Saudi Arabia. According to the Guardian, Carr said as a crucial ally to Britain, was an entirely appropriate customer for BAE’s weapons and services. All sales by BAE were in accordance with rules and regulations set out by the UK government, Carr added.

In a letter to the House of Commons international development committee, the UK foreign secretary, Philip Hammond, said allegations of human rights abuses against Saudi Arabia had been investigated and had no found no breaches of international humanitarian law (IHL) and stated  the government was “satisfied that all extant licences for the export of arms exports to Saudi Arabia are compliant with the Consolidated EU and National Arms Export Licensing Criteria”. He stated – despite allegations to the contrary – that the Saudi-led coalition fighting in Yemen are not targeting civilians;  Saudi Arabian processes and procedures have been put in place to ensure respect for the principles of IHL;  Saudi Arabia is investigating incidents of concern, including those involving civilian casualties and Saudi Arabia has engaged in constructive dialogue with the UK about both its processes and incidents of concern.

However, in its report on the crisis in Yemen the committee stated that, “In light of the very strong evidence that delivery of humanitarian relief is undermined by ongoing breaches of IHL, we recommend that an independent investigation into alleged violations of IHL by both sides of the conflict in Yemen is conducted without delay. We remain unconvinced that Saudi Arabia is best placed to conduct investigations into reports of IHL abuses by the Saudi-led coalition.”

In addition to targeting BAE Systems CAAT has begun formal legal action in the High Court to challenge the government’s decision to export arms to Saudi Arabia.

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