Arms sales before justice

28 October 2018

Arms sales before justice


The Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is even less popular than before' following the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi. Attacks on human rights defenders in Saudi Arabia, the complete lack of freedom of religion and opinion and the Saudi involvement in war crimes in Yemen: the international community knew about those things. But Khashoggi is another question, one too obvious to ignore. Yet I'm not optimistic. As long as the interests of big capital weigh more heavily that those of the people, the US and European commitment to human rights will remain utterly hypocritical.

Initially, neither the Crown Prince nor the western governments took much notice of the effects which the images of Khashoggi were having in the media or amongst the public, President Erdogan of Turkey, in geopolitical terms no friend of Saudi Arabia, exploited the situation, suddenly standing up for human rights, while in Turkey itself there is no longer any real freedom of the press. But the western governments are even more hypocritical, most of all Trump, who had just signed a large number of trade agreements and arms deals, although France's President must also answer for the fact that his country is a major supplier of weaponry to the Saudis.

As long as Khashoggi stays in the news, western governments can do nothing but play down their love for the Saudi regime. Yet to date, only Germany has suspended arms deliveries to the country. This is one more example of the power of major corporations. The oil industry and arms dealers determine where you can draw attention to human rights abuses and where it's best to turn a blind eye. The European Parliament has little power in relation to foreign policy, and perhaps because of this it was possible for it to adopt a motion calling for an arms boycott of Saudi Arabia. However, this same European Parliament applauded when the EU sought more funds for the development and acquisition of weaponry by the member states. In my view it's perfectly clear: if we want to take human rights seriously, this can only be achieved if the influence of major corporations on Foreign Ministries is blocked. The opposite has occurred in recent years: embassies must stand at the ready to be of service to big capital. The Dutch Permanent Representatives to the European Union continue to allow multinationals to sponsor receptions. If an end is not put to this, human rights will never outweigh trade considerations. Then it will simply be a matter of waiting for the moment when Trump and Macron have satisfied themselves with a Saudi show trial in which the Crown Prince washes the guilt from his hands and then organises an execution.

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