The UK may have cancelled the £5.9m Saudi prisons contract, but we did just sell them £4bn in arms

Justice Secretary Michael Gove was praised on Tuesday for scrapping a contract to run services in the Saudi Arabian prison service.

There had been widespread criticism of the £5.9m deal because of Saudi Arabia's appalling human rights record and excessively cruel penal system.

In the past few months, Saudi Arabia has sentenced blogger Raif Badawi to ten years in prison and 500 lashes, and Arab Spring protester Ali Mohammed al-Nimr, who was a teen when he was arrested, to be beheaded and crucified.

While the UK has moved to distance itself from Saudi Arabia's horrific treatment of its people in one regard, the government hasn't been so keen to shout about our other dealings with the oppressive kingdom.

Between May 2010 – March 2015, the coalition government licensed almost £4billion of arms to Saudi Arabia, and according to a Parliamentary Committee on Arms Export Controls report from earlier this year, the equipment included:

  • fighter jets
  • machine guns, sniper rifles and pistols
  • crowd control ammunition
  • intelligence and cryptography equipment
  • hand grenades
  • tear gas

...and many, many more items.

The Campaign Against the Arms Trade (CAAT) says this equipment is being used to kill civilians as Saudi Arabia becomes increasingly involved in the conflict in Yemen.

Andrew Smith, a spokeperson for CAAT, said in a statement:

The Saudi authorities are lashing and executing opponents, locking up bloggers and bombing civilians in Yemen. The human rights situation is dire and the UK government has repeatedly failed to say or do anything about it.

There must be an immediate embargo on all arms sales to the regime, and an end to the uncritical political support they are given. How many more people will be tortured and killed before the UK government finally says enough is enough?

Last month London hosted the Defence & Security Equipment International arms fair, to which the Saudi military were invited - so presumably we'll be lining our pockets with Saudi money again soon.

More: This caller to James O'Brien perfectly sums up why we should oppose Saudi Arabia

More: If David Cameron thinks Jeremy Corbyn sympathises with Islamists, what does that mean for his deal with Saudi Arabia?

The Conversation (0)