Muslim Times (Web Desk) – UK’s Labour leader accused the British Prime Minister Theresa May of failing to stand up to Saudis over human rights abuses in Yemen.
The opposition Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn has challenged Theresa May over the government’s lavish welcome for the visiting Saudi crown prince, using prime minister’s questions to accuse her of failing to stand up to the Saudis over rights abuses and possible war crimes in Yemen, The Guardian reported.
May defended her links with Mohammed bin Salman, who will meet the Queen, Prince Charles and Prince William, as well as senior ministers, during his three-day visit, saying engagement was the only way to have influence over the Saudis.
But the Labour leader urged May to stop arms sales to Saudi Arabia over its intervention in Yemen, which has killed thousands of civilians and worsened a humanitarian catastrophe, and to take him to task over human rights.
Bin Salman, 32, has promised to liberalize Saudi society and allow more rights for women. However, he has also proved an authoritarian ruler, and his accession to power has coincided with increased Saudi involvement in Yemen.
“Despite much talk of reform, there’s been a sharp increase in the arrest and detention of dissidents; torture of prisoners is common; human rights defenders routinely sentenced to lengthy prison terms,” Corbyn told May.
“Unfair trials and executions are widespread, as Amnesty International confirm. As she makes her arms sales pitch, will she also call on the crown prince to halt the shocking abuse of human rights in Saudi Arabia?”
The prime minister responded by citing security and anti-terrorist cooperation with the Saudis: “The link that we have with Saudi Arabia is historic, it is an important one, and it has saved the lives of potentially hundreds of people in this country.”
Corbyn also cited the situation in Yemen, where a combination of war and a blockade imposed as part of Saudi efforts to defeat Houthis has caused mass hunger and disease.
While Germany had halted arms sales to Saudi Arabia, he said, UK ones had risen: “It cannot be right that her government is colluding in what the United Nations says is evidence of war crimes.”
The UK sold £836 million worth of arms and military hardware to the Saudi kingdom between April and June, up from £280 million between January and March, according to statistics by the Department for International Trade (DIT) in 2017.
May said the government was increasing aid to Yemen, and pointed to a meeting she had in December in Riaydh with Bin Salman, at which she demanded an end to the blockade of the Yemeni port of Hodeidah.
“I’m pleased to say that Saudi Arabia then did just that,” she said. “This vindicates the engagement that we have with Saudi Arabia, to be able to sit down with them.”
The Saudi war was launched in March 2015 in support of Yemen’s former Riyadh-friendly government and against the country’s Houthi Ansarullah movement.
The offensive has, however, achieved neither of its goals despite the spending of billions of petrodollars and the enlisting of the cooperation of Saudi Arabia’s regional and Western allies.
The Saudi-led campaign, which is accompanied by a land, aerial and naval blockade of Yemen, has so far killed more than 13,600 people and led to a humanitarian crisis.