Saudi crown prince to face protests during UK visit over Yemen war atrocities

Saudi crown prince to face protests during UK visit
over Yemen war atrocities

A coalition of rights groups in the UK has said they will hold protests this week in London against a state visit by the powerful Saudi crown prince.
3 min read
05 March, 2018
Protesters gathered outside Downing Street to demand May cancel her meeting with Bin Salman [Getty]

A coalition of UK-based human rights groups have said protests will be held in London this week against a state visit by the powerful Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

The coalition has planned demonstrations outside the prime minister's residence in Downing Street for when Theresa May meets Mohammed bin Salman, who is on his first official foreign tour as heir to the throne.

Rights campaigners including the Campaign Against Arms Trade have denounced the visit due to Riyadh's human rights record and the Saudi-led military intervention in Yemen.

"This visit should not be taking place. The crown prince is the figurehead of a dictatorship with one of the worst human rights records in the world," Andrew Smith of Campaign Against Arms Trade told The New Arab.

"It is a regime that has inflicted atrocities against Saudi people for decades, and over the last three years it has created one of the world's worst humanitarian catastrophe's in the world in Yemen."

"It is time for [British Prime Minister] Theresa May to end the arms sales and her uncritical political and military support for the regime," he added.

Ten groups plan on taking part in the protests, including the Stop the War Coalition and Organisation for Human Rights in the UK.

More than 9,200 people have been killed in the Yemen war since 2015, when the Saudi-led coalition joined the government's fight against the Houthi rebels.

More than eight million people are at risk of famine as port blockades, cholera and diphtheria bring the Arab world's most impoverished country to its knees.

Saudi Arabia and its military allies last year landed on a United Nations blacklist over the killing and maiming of children in Yemen.

The UK has licensed £4.6 billion ($6.3 billion) worth of arms to Saudi Arabia since it began the intervention in neighbouring Yemen, which has seen the deaths of thousands of civilians.

"The UK has armed and supported the terrible war since day one, and there is no doubt that arms sales will be top of the agenda next week," Smith said.

"May is putting the interests of arms dealers above the rights of Yemeni people," he added.

In a statement last week, May said Prince Mohammed's visit will usher in a new era in relations between the two longtime allies.

The UK leader praised the 32-year-old for pushing through major social reforms - such as allowing women to drive - in the conservative kingdom.

Last month, protesters gathered outside Downing Street to demand May cancel her meeting with bin Salman.

Amnesty International has urged May to show "some backbone" during the visit and called on her to suspend weapon exports to Riyadh.

"Time and time again, UK ministers have turned a blind eye to Saudi Arabia's atrocious human rights record - barely mentioning the country's crackdown on peaceful opposition figures, or the alarming prevalence of torture, unfair trials and grisly executions," Amnesty said.

Saudi authorities have long cracked down on rights activists and critics with many being sentenced to lengthy prison terms, while others have been forced to flee the country.