Friday, February 19, 2016

BAE - making a killing

Amnesty’s arms trade director, Oliver Sprague, told The Independent: “They [shareholders] need to realise that a large part of the company’s profits is coming from the sale of weapons to Saudi Arabia at the very time Saudi’s military coalition in Yemen has killed thousands of civilians.” Warning the UK government to “stop cheerleading BAE’s lucrative arm sales”  and to suspend export licences for further arms  sales to Saudi Arabia, Mr Sprague added “There is strong evidence that that the present weapons sales to Saudi Arabia are not just ill-advised but actually illegal. Bombing raids on schools, medical facilities, mosques and markets, according to the UN, have violated international humanitarian laws. 

Amnesty International says that that financial figures from the British-based multi-national defence contractor, reveal that a net gain of close to £1 billion over the last year in the company’s UK division is down to continuing sales and engineering support of its Eurofighter Typhoon jet to the Royal Saudi Air Force. Amnesty International alleges that although BAE’s military-related sales contracted in recent years, the Saudi-led campaign in Yemen, alongside plans for further Saudi involvement in bombing in Syria, helped improve operating profits last year from £1.3 billion to £1.5 billion. According to the company’s own figures for 2015, the Saudi military market helped boost its overall performance. Sales increased by £1.3 billion to £17.9 bn. BAE Systems are – quite literally – making a killing.

Britain doesn't just sell arms to dictatorships - it sells its diplomatic silence, as well. While Saudi Arabia pulls the trigger, it is the UK and the US which ever-faithfully reloads and replaces its weapons. Britain’s Department of International Development (DFID), which gives £106m a year (2015/2016) in aid to Yemen. Compared to the billions made from selling arms to the aggressors, our aid to the Yemeni people is a drop in the bucket, little more than blood money. In a legal opinion commissioned by Amnesty UK, Professor Philippe Sands QC said that Britain is in breach of its own Export Control Act 2002, the EU Common Position and its international obligations under the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) for selling arms to a state at risk of violating international law or committing human rights abuses.

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