Human rights groups call on Theresa May to cancel visit of Saudi Arabia Crown Prince

Campaign groups highlight UK complicity in Saudi Arabia's human rights abuses.

January 16, 2018
4 min read

Theresa May meeting with Mohammad bin Salman Al Saud

A coalition of human rights organisations has written to Theresa May, calling on her to cancel the visit of Saudi Arabian Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman. The visit, which was confirmed in December, is expected in the weeks ahead. The Crown Prince has overseen the devastating bombardment of Yemen and holds the second most senior role in the repressive Saudi regime, which has one of the worst human rights records in the world.

Despite the humanitarian crisis, the UK government has continued to arm and support the Saudi regime. Since the ongoing bombardment began in 2015, the UK has licensed £4.6 billion worth of arms to Saudi Arabia, including £2.7 billion worth of ML10 licences (Aircraft, helicopters, drones) and £1.9 billion worth of ML4 licences (Grenades, bombs, missiles, countermeasures). In January of 2017, Michael Fallon urged fellow MPs to stop criticising Saudi human rights abuses in for fear that such criticisms might endanger lucrative arms deals. Hours afterwards, he and fellow MPs were “wined-and-dined by the arms trade at a £450-a-head banquet” by arms manufacturers. Campaign groups hope to call a halt to the UK government’s role in propping up the arms trade, which they say shores up the power of corrupt and deadly regimes.

The text of the letter sent to Theresa May is below.

 Withdraw invitation to Saudi Crown Prince

The undersigned organisations and individuals urge the prime minister Theresa May to withdraw the invitation to Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman of Saudi Arabia to visit Britain. Bin Salman is the second most senior member of the Saudi regime, which has one of the worst human rights records in the world. Torture, arbitrary detention, and other appalling abuses are widely documented. In 2017 alone, Saudi authorities executed over 100 people.

The Crown Prince has overseen the war on Yemen, creating tens of thousands of deaths and injuries. In the words of the UN, Yemen is facing “the world’s worst humanitarian disaster for 50 years”. UK made jets and bombs have played a major role in destroying civilian targets and the poor nation’s infrastructure. UK personnel, from the armed forces and BAE Systems, are present in the Saudi operations centre, aiding this catastrophe.

The Saudi regime has also supported repression in other states, notably Bahrain where its military supported the crackdown on peaceful protestors in 2011. Recently, the Crown Prince has established a blockade of Qatar, and held the prime minister of Lebanon in custody. Both of these latter acts were failed attempts to impose regime change on sovereign nations.

It shames us as a nation to support and associate with a brutal dictator who uses hunger as a weapon, and has allowed the largest cholera epidemic in history to develop in Yemen. The interests of the people of Britain, and the peoples suffering from the Crown Prince’s adventurism, are not served by this visit. The invitation must be withdrawn.

Signatories:

Arab Organisation for Human Rights in the UK (AOHR UK)

Bahrain Institute for Human Rights

Bahrain Opposition Block

Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT)

Human Rights for Yemen

Iraqi Democrats

Sheba for Democracy and Human Rights

Stop the War Coalition 

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