The UK Invested $20 Billion Into Human Rights Abuses

Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, UK -

The UK Invested $20 Billion Into Human Rights Abuses

The UK sold military equipment to dozens of countries condemned for human rights abuses and civil liberties violations, according to a new report.

According to Freedom House, between 2011 and 2020 the UK licensed $23.32 billion in arms to 39 countries responsible for human rights abuses and whose actions were internationally condemned. In 2016 most of UK weapons exports went to 18 countries including China, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Israel, Egypt, and Pakistan. In 2017 Israel was the second-biggest buyer of UK arms which was appointed on the Foreign and Commonwealth Office's human rights priority list. 

The London-based Campaign Against Arms Trade (Caat) found that over the same period, £11.8 billion ($16.38 billion) of weapons had been authorized by the UK government to countries the Foreign Office listed as repressive regimes.

According to the British Department for International Trade, nine countries, including Saudi Arabia, are "core markets" for arms exports despite rights groups saying they are guilty of serious human rights abuses.

UK OKs Saudi Arabia and Bahrain's Human Rights Abuses

Earlier this year, the UK government authorized the export of almost $1.9 billion worth of weapons to Saudi Arabia since a ban was lifted in 2020.

The UK has sold combat aircraft, helicopters, drones, grenades, bombs and missiles to the Saudis who have used them to decimate Yemen and commit continuous war crimes. Yemen collapsed into civil war after the Houthis seized the capital Sanaa in late 2014 and forced President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi to flee to the coastal city of Aden, and then later Saudi Arabia.

The Saudis and their regional allies intervened in the civil war in March 2015, and have since carried out more than 20,000 air strikes, with more than one-third hitting non-military sites, including schools, factories and hospitals killing scores of civilians and destroying fragile infrastructure. The was has triggered what the UN laveled the "world's worst humanitarian crisis", with more than 24 million people displaced or forced to survive on rations of international aid. More than 10 million people are now near famine and millions more are without healthcare.

According to experts working for human rights organizations, many of the UK sales are purposely going to despots, dictatorships, and human rights abusing regimes due to the direct support of PM Boris Johnson and his collaborators. Boris Johnson is widely known for helping convince a significant portion of the UK public to vote for Brexit, a move that's severely harmed the UK population, economic growth, and global status.

Human rights groups expressed outrage after UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson happily hosted Bahrain's crown prince. From 2008 to 2017, the UK sold £88.9 million ($121.3 million) worth of military weapons to Bahrain. The UK government has also provided extensive training to the Bahraini military and internal security forces. The Bahrain royal family is violently holding on to power and severely repressing pro-democracy movements and voices. Bahrain is widely known to give lengthy sentences to critics of the regime and torture dissidents, including their children. Johnson failed to address Bahrain's dire human rights record and instead hosted them to lavish dinners and events, rewarding them for their litany of abuses.

These weapons sales are not just numbers nor are they an investment into the UK, they have consequences and direct investment to further human rights abuses worldwide. The UK's continued weapons sales to abusers show the important role that it plays on the world stage in legitimizing and normalizing human rights abuses and impunity. 

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