Dear [Insert the name of your MP],
My name is [Insert Name] and I am a constituent of [Insert constituency].
Back in 2015, the International Congress of the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF) condemned the use of explosive weapons in populated areas in Yemen, which was causing severe harm to individuals and damaging the vital infrastructure of the country. The women called for an immediate, unconditional ceasefire and called on states to cease arms
transfers to those countries involved in the bombing of Yemen.
In 2019 a resolution of the Annual General Meeting of the UK section of WILPF condemned the selling of arms by the UK Government to Saudi Arabia who is using those weapons on the people of Yemen. Because of the bombing, over 3.6 million people have been displaced since 2015, creating a humanitarian crisis that now requires international aid and assistance for over 24 million people.
The Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, (WILPF), has over one hundred years of experience in researching and challenging the root causes of conflict. We challenge the narrative that international issues can be solved by war and that the UK’s position on the world stage is enhanced by increasing its military spending.
The war in Yemen, which is now six years old, has become a cause of worldwide concern. According to the aid agencies, 80% of the population of Yemen now needs international aid to survive. The Saudi Arabian coalition airstrikes on residential areas, hospitals and schools have resulted in over eighteen thousand civilian casualties.
These are horrific statistics, but it is even worse to discover that Britain is now the main supplier of arms to the Saudi Coalition, the UK has trained and advised the Saudi military, and that the UK has resisted a call by the Netherlands for Saudi war crimes to be investigated. Meanwhile, the new administration in the USA has suspended its arms sales to Saudi Arabia.
The war in Yemen is fed by the supply of arms. If Britain stopped the sale of military equipment to Saudi Arabia forthwith, this could create the conditions for a cease-fire and a negotiated peace. Currently, Yemen is a humanitarian scandal and Britain’s role is a matter of shame. It is disturbing to us that after the UK’s own supreme court found arms licencing to Saudi Arabia to be unlawful, even “irrational”, at which point the granting of new licences were suspended, a government review which was opaque, reflexive and lacking in transparent accountability or civil society review latterly decided that this was not the case.
In July last year, 20, during a global crisis and supply chain shock, arms licences to Saudi Arabia were permitted to continue less than 24 hours after human rights sanctions were levied against 20 senior Saudi regime officials by our own government officials, for having “blood on their hands”.
Indeed, Dominic Raab stated that these were 20 of the world’s worst 49 human rights abusers. It is surely contrary to our claim to be Human Rights leaders. Meanwhile, “The 2019 Foreign &Commonwealth Office Report” Published in July 2020, still retained Saudi Arabia in its top 30 watch list for human rights concerns.
Not only is this alarming as a democratic country, but this awareness, along with the consistent reporting on Yemen, from local and global civil society groups, contradicts the statements of Liz Truss in which direct weapon-related harm, or the coercively associated famine which has been widely condemned, can be merely “minor incidents” of International Humanitarian Law violation.
We ask by what valid metrics, Ms Truss can state that “[she has] assessed that there is not a clear risk that the export of arms and military equipment to Saudi Arabia might be used in the commission of a serious violation of IHL”.
We ask how then, after the resumption of sales, the exports authorized scaled from £8.8m worth in Q1 to £17.5m in Q2 to an astonishing £1.39bn, in the period between July and September?
While our economy is predicted to suffer for some decades due to legislation and socio-economic stagnancy during Covid, and equally the global supply chain further strains international trade, commerce and aid, how is such a surge to be justified to the UK public, when the outcome is only more harm, which will, in turn, require further aid / financial mitigation?
While we note that the UK’s statement in the recent Universal Periodic Review of Saudi Arabia, 14 March 2019, made some excellent recommendations around human rights abuses, no reference to its violations of sovereignty and humanitarian rights of the Yemeni people. We would urge the UK government to use its significant standing to include such concerns in future reviews.
WILPF urges you to address this humanitarian scandal, and we look forward to hearing from you that action is being taken to stop the sale of arms to Saudi Arabia. Moreover, we urge that the UK will immediately use its diplomatic skills to bring about a peaceful solution in Yemen. We welcome engagement with you on these matters.
[Insert your name and address]