Giant 'Yemen dead' gravestone to be erected in Parliament Square in protest at UK arms sales
Amnesty International activists will erect a six-feet-high gravestone in Parliament Square on Wednesday 22 March (10.30am) in memory of the thousands of Yemeni civilians killed in Saudi Arabia-led airstrikes in the country.
The event - accompanied by a funeral-style attendance by mourners dressed formally in black, some wearing veils - is designed to draw attention to the UK’s sale of billions of pounds’ worth of arms to Saudi Arabia during the two-year conflict in Yemen.
Amnesty has repeatedly called on the UK Government to halt arms transfers to the Saudi-led coalition where there is a clear risk of such arms being used in breaches of international humanitarian law in Yemen.
The “Yemen dead” gravestone, which will be erected in full view of the Houses of Parliament, will bear the following message:
In Memory Of
the 1,000s of
killed in Saudi-led
25 March 2015 – present
to Saudi Arabia
After filing solemnly to the giant gravestone, the activist-mourners will lay white roses at the base of the memorial before holding a minute’s silence at 11am.
During the event, some activists will also hold placards saying “Stop Arming Saudi Arabia” and “Protect Yemeni Lives”.
In May last year, Amnesty published evidence showing that the Saudi-led coalition had used UK-manufactured “BL-755” cluster munitions in northern Yemen, as well as evidence of US and Brazilian cluster munitions being used by Saudi coalition forces. One UK cluster bomb had apparently malfunctioned and left scores of deadly unexploded “bomblets” strewn over a wide area near a farm in Al-khadhra village in Hajjah governorate, six miles from the Saudi Arabia border. After months of denial, the Defence Secretary Michael Fallon told the House of Commons in December that Saudi Arabia had admitted using UK-manufactured cluster munitions.
Kate Allen, Amnesty International UK’s Director, said:
“We’re here to remember and pay our respects to the thousands of Yemeni civilians who’ve tragically been killed in two devastating years of Saudi-led airstrikes.
“Government ministers should long ago have halted arms sales to Saudi Arabia - instead they’ve buried their heads in the sand.
“The Government shouldn’t wait for the outcome of a legal challenge over selling arms to Saudi Arabia - it should do the right thing now.”
Judicial review challenge
Last month the High Court heard a judicial review case brought by Campaign Against the Arms Trade challenging the legality of the UK Government’s arms transfers to Saudi Arabia amid the current armed conflict in Yemen. Amnesty, Human Rights Watch, Rights Watch (UK) and Oxfam all made submissions to the court. A decision in the case is pending.
Meanwhile, Amnesty supporters are currently contacting their MPs urging them to call on the UK Government to halt arms transfers to the Saudi-led coalition where there is a clear risk of such arms being used in breaches of international humanitarian law in Yemen.