Scots doctors call for an end to UK arms sales to Saudi Arabia 3

Scots doctors call for an end to UK arms sales to Saudi Arabia

Doctors in Scotland are among hundreds of medics who’ve signed a letter calling on the UK Government to end arms sales to Saudi Arabia.

More than 200 doctors who belong to Medact sent the letter to Dr Liam Fox, secretary of state for international trade.

Medact was formed in 1992 and campaigns on health issues related to war and poverty.

Its letter said that war crimes allegations levelled at a Saudi-led coalition at war in Yemen have included attacks on three Médecins Sans Frontières hospitals which killed patients and medical staff.

The Saudis lead a coalition of Arab states backing a Yemeni government which is fighting Houthi rebels.

The coalition has dropped bombs made in Scotland and been accused of dozens of war crimes – claims the Saudis deny.

The most recent incident involving the coalition happened last week when more than 140 mourners were killed in Sanaa after a funeral was bombed.

Human Rights Watch investigated the attack and said it was an “apparent war crime”.

Fox – who grew up in East Kilbride before studying medicine at Glasgow University – is a former GP now responsible for licensing arms exports.

Medcat’s letter said: “As health professionals, we have a duty to speak out against all causes of ill health in Yemen. This must include the sale and export of UK weaponry that is fuelling the conflict.”

Signatories to the letter include Eliot Waterhouse, a junior doctor who trained in Glasgow before working at Dumfries & Galloway Royal Infirmary.

He said: “The main point of the mass signed letter is a direct appeal to Liam Fox’s principles as a doctor, a job in which he practiced for a number of years.

“These attacks have destroyed the country’s infrastructure, leading to starvation and disease, prolonging the suffering of these already destitute people.

“The bombing of hospitals has also prompted MSF to leave many areas due to suspicion of the targeting of hospitals, which is ironic given the government has also donated £100 million so far this year to humanitarian aid to the country.

The ignorance by the government is deplorable and it needs to make the right decision soon with attacks continuing, the most recent being in Sana’a only days ago, killing over 140 people. Instead, it is only blocking the formation of independent inquiries into the worst civilian attacks.

“This is a shameful chapter in the government’s history, condoned by a man who we hope would know better.”

A retired respiratory physician called Duncan Macintyre who worked at Victoria Infirmary in Glasgow, also signed Medact’s letter.

He said: “The Saudi government for whatever local reasons embarked on a major offensive which has targeted not only their supposed Houthi opponents but also civilians and local infrastructure including health facilities.

“Resulting starvation adds to the direct suffering caused by military action. By any interpretation of appropriate action this must be excessive and generally unjustified.

“The UK government bemoans the results and offers increased ‘humanitarian aid’ but is not prepared to recognise its role in worsening the situation by provision of weaponry to the Saudis, including apparently an accelerated delivery of Pathway bombs from Glenrothes.”

The Saudis are investigating the attack on the funeral and Tory Minister for the Middle East Tobias Ellwood MP visited Saudi Arabia for meetings.

Human Rights Watch said one of the bombs dropped was a “a US-manufactured air-dropped GBU-12 Paveway II 500-pound laser-guided bomb.”

US arms giant Raytheon makes Paveway IV laser guided missiles at its factory in Glenrothes, Fife, but it is not known if the above missile was made in Scotland.

Raytheon did not respond to our questions about the claims made by HRW.

The Foreign Office said discussions would focus on the airstrike and attempts to revive the stalled political process in the country.

A UK Government spokesperson said: “The Government takes its arms export responsibilities extremely seriously and operates one of the most robust arms export control regimes in the world.

“We rigorously examine every application on a case-by-case basis against the Consolidated EU and National arms export licensing Criteria and risks around human rights abuses are a key part of our assessment.

“Our export licensing system allows us to respond quickly to changing facts on the ground. We have suspended or revoked licences when the level of risk changes and we constantly review local situations.”

This story was published by the Sunday Mail on 16th October 2016.

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