“I know nothing!” was the catch-phrase of Sergeant Schultz in the 1960s comedy series Hogan’s Heroes, along with “I see nothing.”
BAE Systems does not know whether its weapons are used to commit war crimes, the defence firm’s chairman has admitted. Sir Roger Carr told shareholders gathered at the company’s annual general meeting they were not complicit in war crimes allegedly committed by Saudi Arabia using BAE-made planes and bombs in Yemen.
Asked whether any of its products were used in an airstrike that recently killed at least 20 people at a wedding, including the bride, he replied: “You don’t know and I don’t know.” Monitors allege that weapons and aircraft manufactured by BAE Systems have been deployed to kill civilians and violate international law in Yemen. “We separate ourselves from the war itself… we’re not involved in any part of prosecuting, planning or executing the war.” Sir Roger insisted that BAE Systems staff do not load weapons on to planes themselves but are involved in service, maintenance and training.
Sir Roger later admitted that BAE Systems equipment “may have been used” by Saudi forces in a military intervention to crush anti-government protests in Bahrain in 2011. He later refused a vicar’s request for a minute’s silence to commemorate the people killed and injured by his company’s products, then had a protester who accused the firm of being “complicit in the murder of innocents every day” carried out by security guards.
The AGM was told that share prices and sales had risen in 2017, making it a “good year for BAE Systems”, which stands as Britain’s largest manufacturer and makes up 0.6 per cent of GDP. It has been financially bolstered by additional awards from the British government for submarine programmes, a new contract with Qatar and the sale of 48 Typhoon jets to Saudi Arabia. He personally met Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and members of his government during his UK visit earlier this year. Describing the autocrat as a “man of considerable presence”, he enthusiastically praised his reform programme and added: “He is trying to create a world for them that I think we’d all be happy to see.”
Sir Roger defended Saudi Arabia’s intervention against Houthi rebels in Yemen by claiming the coalition bombing campaign was supported by the UN Security Council, although the body has never explicitly backed military intervention and has issued several warnings over violations of international law.
“We are not an aggressive company. We don’t conduct wars, we manufacture equipment in order to ensure that those who protect and serve us are equipped appropriately and hope that having given that equipment it will avoid others being aggressors.”