By Local Democracy Reporter
PROTESTS are expected to take place at the Port of Tilbury over the arrival of a ship loaded with military equipment that campaigners fear could be used for war crimes in the Middle East.
The Bahri Yanbu ship, which is owned by Saudi Arabia’s national shipping company, is due to arrive at the Port of Tilbury on Wednesday afternoon and protesters from Campaign Against the Arms Trade have said it may be collecting further UK-made military equipment.
The ship was also due to visit Antwerp in Belgium but has been turned away due to protests.
Campaigners have said the arms could be destined for use by Saudi-led forces which are carrying out a bombing campaign in Yemen that has put 14 million people at risk of famine.
The UN has called the five-year conflict the “worst humanitarian crisis in the world in 100 years”.
In June, the UK government was forced to suspend its arms sales to Saudi Arabia when a Court of Appeal found it had approved the export of weapons without assessing whether the Saudi-led coalition had broken international law.
Judges said the decision to continue selling arms for use in the Yemeni war was “irrational and therefore unlawful”.
The Government has appealed that decision and defended the arms sales, claiming Saudi Arabia is an important ally which has been under fire from missiles launched by a Yemeni militia.
Southend Labour Councillor Matt Dent said: “This is a conflict we are not officially part of but seem to be supplying with arms and ammunition.
“I am concerned at the laisse faire nature of this country, which is giving out arms to extremely questionable regimes and I think frankly we owe a great debt of responsibility to the world rather than to just sell arms to the Saudis when we know how they’ll be used.”
Mr Dent offered his support to the protests calling it “encouraging” to see people willing to stand up against the shipment.
Andrew Smith of Campaign Against Arms Trade said: “The weapons transported by this ship could be used in human rights abuses in Yemen and beyond. It should not be allowed to use UK ports.
“Arms-dealing governments like the one in the UK have played a central role in strengthening the Saudi dictatorship and fuelling the devastating war in Yemen.”