We salute Lance Corporal Ahmed Al-Babati who was arrested by Military Police outside Downing Street on Monday after taking part in a protest against Britain’s involvement in the war in Yemen.
Al-Babati is refusing to continue to serve in the army as long as Britain continues to send arms and provide military support to Saudi Arabia for its war in Yemen. We join with Peace Pledge Union, Veterans for Peace and others in calling for Al-Babati’s release and invite readers to sign this petition calling on the Ministry of Defense not to take disciplinary action against Al-Babati’s stand of conscience.
Show your support. You can write to him: LCpl Al-Babati 14th Signal Regiment, Cawdor Barracks, Brawdy, Haverfordwest, SA62 6NN
The right to conscientious objection is a human right recognised by the United Nations.and should extend to protecting the rights of military personell to refuse to be complicit with war crimes. The Peace & Justice Centre is leading an effort to create an “Opposing War” memorial to conscientious objectors in Edinburgh. The memorial is not only about COs of the past but about those of the present. Al-Babati stands out among COs as the first that we know of to stand up against UK complicity in the Saudi war on Yemen. Read more about the Opposing War Memorial here.
More than 100,000 people have been killed in the war in Yemen since March 2015. Saudi forces have intentionally targetted and killed more than 12,000 civilians there with direct support from UK personell., according to ACLED, the Armed Conflict Locations and Events Data project.
In July the UK government announced the resumption of arms sales to Saudi Arabia despite its commitments under the Arms Trade Treaty not to provide weapons to regimes where they are likely to be used to commit human rights abuses. According to Campaign Against Arms Trade, since the bombing of Yemen began in March 2015, the UK has licensed £5.3 billion worth of arms to the Saudi regime, including £2.7 billion worth of ML10 licences (Aircraft, helicopters, drones).
Under UK arms export law military equipment should not be granted if there is a “clear risk” that a weapon “might” be used in “serious violations” of international humanitarian law. Saudi forces in Yemen have been regularly accused of serious breaches of IHL. The UK government is ‘tracking’ over 366 possible violations of international humanitarian law in Yemen.
The government has confirmed that UK built and licensed Tornado and Typhoon aircraft from the Royal Saudi Air Force have been deployed on combat missions in the Yemen campaign. The UK sold 120 BAE produced Tornado jets as part of the Al Yamamah deal signed in 1985. In 2013, a £1.5bn contract was agreed for Tornado aircraft upgrades and weapons. A deal for 72 Eurofighter Typhoon fighter jets was confirmed in 2007.
In a parliamentary answer given in October 2016, the then Defence Secretary Michael Fallon confirmed UK missiles ad been used by Saudi forces in Yemen including Paveway IV bombs. In 2014 Raytheon announced its first international contract for Paveway IV bombs, the deal was estimated to be worth around £150 million. Raytheon manufacture Paveway bombs at their factory in Glenrothes in Scotland. Yemen-based Mwatana for Human Rights linked Paveway IV bombs to attacks on civilian targets.
With direct UK support the Saudi war on Yemen has resulted in the worst humanitarian crisis in the world today, with a major cholera epidemic and more than 20 million people at risk of starvation. For all these reasons Ahmed al-Babati is right to refuse to refuse to serve as long as Britain continues to support the Saudi war on Yemen.