Earlier this week ‘The People’s Weapons Inspectors’ blocked the main gate of arms manufacturer Roxel in the West Midlands and requested to inspect the site. The group, which included members of Put Down the Sword and the London Catholic Worker, believe the site is supplying weapons components that will be used by the Saudi Arabian military to commit war crimes against the people of Yemen.
At around 07:35AM on Monday 9th April the activists parked outside Roxel and blocked the gates using a lock-on tube. Others requested that they be allowed access to inspect the site and question the directors. They unfurled banners reading “Site closed for weapons inspection” and “Roxel: stop arming Saudi”. Some took part in a prayer service remembering the thousands of victims of the war in Yemen. The group allege that Roxel are manufacturing propulsion systems for Brimstone air-to-surface missiles which are to be delivered to Saudi Arabia. The protesters aimed to deliver evidence of Roxel’s alleged weapons deal and of Saudi war crimes against the people of Yemen. They are calling upon the British government to stop supplying export licenses for British arms sales to Saudi Arabia.
Civil war has been raging in Yemen – one of the world’s poorest countries – for over three years. As of October 2017, hospitals in Yemen reported almost 9000 casualties and over 50,000 injuries. The UN says that more than 60% of civilian deaths have been the result of air strikes led by the Royal Saudi Air Force. The impacts of the conflict have been catastrophic. Yemen is experiencing the world’s largest cholera outbreak. About 22 million people – 75% of the population – are in need of humanitarian assistance. The UN calls the situation the world’s worst man-made humanitarian disaster.
The People’s Weapons Inspectors, including members of Put Down The Sword and London Catholic Worker, decided that they had to act when on the 12th March 2018 an order in progress for one thousand Brimstone missiles for Tornado jets appeared on the SIPRI* Arms Transfer Database. Now, dozens of police are attending the scene and many workers are unable to fully access the site and continue their work building missiles.
In a pre-recorded statement Nick Cooper, 36, said, “We already knew that Roxel and MBDA had manufactured Saudi orders for missiles in the run up to the war on Yemen and that the Saudi’s Tornado jets had recently been fitted to carry Brimstone missiles. When we saw what looked to be a large Brimstone order appear on the SIPRI database we knew we had to act.”
Jo Frew, 39, who requested to question the directors, 39, said: “By licensing arms sales to Saudi Arabia, the British government is escalating the conflict. We felt compelled to act. We call upon the British government to refuse applications to licence further arms sales to Saudi Arabia.”
*SIPRI (Stockholm International Peace Research Institute)
- Since the war in Yemen began in March 2015 the UK government’s export license quarterly reports have issued ML4 licenses (bombs, missiles, countermeasures) to Saudi valued at over £1.9bn at the end of 2017 gov.uk/government/collections/strategic-export-controls-licensing-data#quarterly-reports
- According to Human Rights Watch, since Saudi Arabia pledged to reduce civilian harm in coalition attacks in 2017, there have been at least six unlawful coalition attacks, 55 civilians, including 33 children, killed.
- The UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office confirmed that Paveway bombs, Brimstone and Storm Shadow missiles made in Britain have been used by the Saudi Airforce in the Yemen conflict. Roxel manufacture propulsion systems for both the Brimstone and Storm Shadow missiles data.parliament.uk/writtenevidence/committeeevidence.svc/evidencedocument/committees-on-arms-export-controls/use-of-ukmanufactured-arms-in-yemen/written/31698.html
- According to Campaign Against the Arms Trade the Royal Saudi Air Force have recently upgraded their British manufactured Tornado fighter jets to carry Brimstone missiles in addition to their fleet of Eurofighter Typhoons caat.org.uk/media/press-releases/2017-11-08 This information has been confirmed by Janes Defence here janes.com/article/75188/uk-re-approves-new-munitions-capability-for-saudi-arabia
- Evidence is also emerging on the SIPRI Arms Transfer Database of first time orders of an unconfirmed quantity, for both Brimstone and Stormshadow missiles to Saudi Coalition partner Kuwait.