Four political groups in the European Parliament are urging Federica Mogherini, head of EU foreign policy, to ban arms sales to Saudi Arabia over its bombing campaign in Yemen. The ongoing conflict in the impoverished Gulf country has brought about the most serious humanitarian crisis in the world, leaving 20 million people in need of aid. MEPs accuse the EU of breaching its own rules by selling arms to Saudi Arabia in defiance to the 2008 common code on military exports.
Ms. Mogherini can propose an embargo but she would need the support of EU member states, including the UK, one of the biggest arms exporters to the Gulf region. Bodil Valero, Swedish Green party MEP, urged the EU not to continue selling arms to Saudi Arabia when faced with “the biggest humanitarian crisis in the world”. To that end, he stressed that “we have our common European values, we have a common position [on arms sales], we shouldn’t sell arms to a country that doesn’t respect humanitarian law or human rights.”
The EU’s code on arms exports lists eight reasons for turning down an arms export license. EU member states are moreover obliged to pay particular attention to countries where serious violations of human rights have been established by the United Nations. The UN sent war crimes investigators to the devastated country to examine alleged human rights violations committed by both sides of the 2.5-year conflict. Saudi Arabia launched bombing in March 2015 since when at least 10,000 people have been killed. Moreover, more than 2,000 are believed to have succumbed to cholera following a collapse of water supplies and sanitation.