A Labour Government Would Ban Weapon Sales to UAE
Labour's shadow minister for peace and the Middle East, Fabian Hamilton has said that a future Labour government would ban UK weapon sales to all members of the Saudi led coalition involved in the bloody conflict in Yemen, including the UAE.
In an interview with Middle East Eye yesterday, Hamilton stated that a Labour government would ensure that arms exports would only be made to “states with a long history of using weapons solely for defensive purposes”.
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn recently called for an arms embargo on Saudi Arabia over its bombardment of Yemen. However, Hamilton's recent comments go further than this suggesting that the ban should be widened to all countries that constitute the Saudi led coalition. When asked if this meant halting weapons sales to UAE, Bahrain, Kuwait, and Egypt, the shadow minister for peace and the Middle East responded “Absolutely”.
More broadly, Hamilton said that the a future Labour government “would not be selling weapons to any state that uses, or could potentially use, weapons we supply for internal repression or foreign war”
In recent years, rights groups such as Amnesty International have documented numerous cases of internal repression in the UAE which has seen bloggers, human rights defenders, and government critics arbitrarily detained, tortured and imprisoned for exercising their right to freedom of speech and assembly, many of which have been detained as a result of their social media activity.
Earlier this year, a BBC investigation found that British weapons manufacturer BAE Systems had been exporting cyber-surveillance and security software to the UAE which the Emirati authorities have used to spy on their citizens.
In the last three years, the UK government has licensed £350m arms to be exported to the United Arab Emirates, many of which have been used in the UAE's campaign in Yemen.
Commenting on the Saudi led coalition bombardment of Yemen, Hamilton said “I don't believe we have any business providing weapons of war for proxy wars.”
The Middle East constitutes a significant market for UK arms exports. Since 2008, the UK has been licensing over £69bn worth of arms to region. Between 2012 and 2016, the UAE was listed as the world's third largest importer; during this period, the UK licensed around £350m worth of arms exports to the country.
This has occurred alongside numerous reports that charge the UAE with contravening UN Arms Trade Treaties by exporting weaponry to Sudan, Libya, Syria and Iraq, making the UK an indirect supplier of weapons to these conflict areas.
As a life long anti-war campaigner, Jeremy Corbyn, has been a vocal critic of the war on terror and is firmly against the renewal of Britain's nuclear weapons system, Trident.
Since becoming leader of the Labour Party, Corbyn has suggested the UK needs “fresh thinking” around its arms exports and defence policy. In this regard, a future Labour government could see Britain follow the Swedish model, whose government recently passed a law banning weapons sales to repressive regimes with a democratic deficit. Fabian Hamilton's comments yesterday suggests that Labour Party policy could be moving firmly in this direction.