SNP Member of the European Parliament's Foreign Affairs Committee Alyn Smith has called for an EU investigation into the legality of UK and other EU member states arms sales to Saudi Arabia. The move follows pressure from the SNP Group at Westminster and legal action by CAAT and other NGOs in the English High Court.
Alyn made the call in a debate in Strasbourg with the EU's top diplomat Federica Mogherini, and has forwarded to her the legal opinion produced by various human rights NGOs, asking for an assessment by her legal services of the legality of the UK's actions in light of EU law on the subject.
Alyn has coordinated with leading human rights NGOs who have documented war crimes in Yemen under Saudi Arabia's bombing campaign. EU law states that member states should deny arms licences to countries that commit "serious violations of international humanitarian law". It seems difficult to explain why the UK, and other member states notably France, have granted such licenses and are providing active assistance to the military campaign.
"The EU is a community of values, enshrined in laws and international agreements, which I believe the UK and France are clearly breaching.
"We cannot continue sending our bombs to whoever buys them, regardless of their consideration for human life. We should suspend our current and past licences to the Saudis until some proper scrutiny is given to respecting international humanitarian law.
"Leading civil society voices from the UK's Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT), including Saferworld and Reprieve, told me they were shocked at the extent to which the UK is ready to compromise on the most basic values in order to sell more weapons. I am proud to be part of an SNP team which is pressing this issue at Westminster, and now also in the EU.
"As a lawyer by trade I have no doubt the EU legal services must assess the legality of arms sales to the Saudi military. I write this knowing that the UK is the Saudi regime's second biggest European arms provider. We in Scotland do not want this Government to make profit out of selling bombs that are dropped on weddings, schools, refugee camps and UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
"I feel terrible for the thousands of Yemeni civilians who have been killed by our own weapons systems. I feel ashamed that despite our repeated warnings, including in the European Parliament's resolution on arms exports of December 2015, the UK continued and still continues to sell bombs, missiles and rockets to the Saudis."
Click here to read Alyn's letter to the EU High Representative.
Click here to watch Alyn's speech to EU High Representative Federica Mogherini, on UK arms sales to Saudi Arabia: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tVOdjHRhyWU
Click here to read the European Parliament's resolution on arms export of December 2015.
Click here to read the NGOs legal opinion on the legality of UK arms sales to Saudi Arabia.