By Akanshya Gurung
The UK government, who preach about democracy and the importance of spreading such values, have allowed the arms trade to corrode ‘British democracy and rule of law’, according to Andrew Feinstein, author and anti-arms trade activist. This is evident from the actions of our senior politicians: engaging in corrupt and illegal arms trade deals, while halting investigations that threaten to expose corruption and prosecute dealers.
Further, Nicholas Wilson, an independent parliamentary candidate for Hastings and Rye in GE2017, told us in a recent interview of the government’s plan to shut down the Serious Fraud Office (SFO), who’s investigation into BAE systems was previously stopped by Prime Minister Tony Blair. This would mean that “all fraud prosecutions will go through the National Crime Agency, which is not independent”, leaving Amber Rudd, as Home Secretary, in charge of who to prosecute.
The Conservatives’ biggest media supporters, ‘The Sun’ and ‘The Daily Mail’ among others, have fuelled the fear, suspicion and hatred of ordinary Muslims in the UK while the Conservatives themselves have close relations with some of the world’s most dangerous Islamic extremists – the Saudi Arabian royal family, who lead an autocratic and repressive regime. They also fund the promotion of Wahhabism ideology worldwide, including in the UK. Wahhabism is a strict Islamic doctrine practiced in Saudi Arabia, which has been found to have links to terrorist groups like al-Qaeda and ISIS. The Guardian reports that in 2007, Saudi Arabia was estimated to have funded £1.5bn for the promotion of Wahhabism worldwide, with the figure doubling in 2015.
The details of foreign funding of terrorism and extremist ideology in the UK have already been compiled in a report that is yet to be published. Despite a cross-party effort to push Theresa May and Amber Rudd to do so, the full report is disclosed from the public. Instead, Rudd produced a dissatisfactory replacement in the form of a 430-word summary, which did not specify any funding countries. While Rudd insists this is due to the report containing ‘sensitive’ information, MPs from other parties are suspicious that the report may be critical of Saudi Arabia and thus the Conservatives fear the risk of angering one of their biggest allies.
On top of supporting and funding corruption, fraud and terrorism through our relationship with Saudi Arabia, the UK government is also fuelling one of the worst ongoing humanitarian crises the world has seen. The civil war in Yemen, which started in March 2015, has recorded some of the biggest violations of international humanitarian law committed by the Saudi-led coalition, according to a UN expert panel, Amnesty International, Oxfam, Human Rights Watch and more. Saudi Arabian forces intervened in Yemen and bombed schools, mosques, and hospitals, resulting in the estimated deaths of between four to twelve thousand civilians. Owen Jones in a video for The Guardian said our own government is “backing and arming the Saudi-led coalition”, meaning that it is our weapons and bombs that are killing innocent civilians in Yemen. Jones also reports that the Saudi forces are responsible “for twice as many civilian deaths as all the other forces in Yemen put together”, according to the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.
Democracy is more than just giving citizens the right to vote, it is about being accessible, transparent, accountable and representative, which the current UK government are clearly failing to be. Andrew Smith, from Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT), states that much of public (two-thirds) and parliamentary opinion is against supplying arms to Saudi. And by denying the public the full report, the Conservatives are yet again allowing the arms trade and their desperation for power to shadow the values of democracy and rule of law. It is clear to see the country’s security and democracy, and the protection of innocent civilians overseas, have all been compromised in exchange for profit and power.