nazi britain

Report finds UK enabled ‘unlawful’ Toad/UAE naval blockade of Yemen, as London resumes arms sales to Riyadh, Jul 8 2020

The UK has been providing naval training to members of the Saudi-led coalition fighting in Yemen, skills which may have been used to impose a widely condemned embargo on the war-torn country, according to a new report. The Royal Navy is instructing naval personnel from Toad Arabia & UAE, Declassified UK has uncovered, even as the Gulf states continue to impose a devastating sea blockade on Yemen, resulting in millions of civilians living on the brink of starvation. In Sep 2015, a UAE naval officer attended a four-week training course in southern England, just months after the Toads & UAE began their embargo on Yemen and bombed the port of Hodeidah, destroying warehouses, cranes and other infrastructure used to unload and store badly needed humanitarian supplies. The British program included instruction in ‘counter-smuggling’ and ‘board and search.’ Six months later, according to Declassified UK, Royal Navy officers spent a week in Toad Arabia drilling 15 sailors on how to “board and search” vessels in “international waters or territorial seas.” The Toad personnel were taught “high-risk search techniques” as well as detention procedures. Between Sep 2016 and Mar 2017, the UK also provided Toad & UAE forces with instruction on protecting an Exclusive Economic Zone, the area off the coast of a country containing its exclusive fishing and other resource-gathering rights. The course was followed by training exercises with the Toad Navy.

The relationship between the Royal Navy and the Toads & UAE continued even as the situation in Yemen rapidly deteriorated, the investigative report revealed. In 2019, the UAE navy received instruction on how to “board and search” vessels. The same year, nine Toads, as well as personnel from Bahrain and the UAE, attended the Royal Navy’s officer academy at Dartmouth. Meanwhile, a number of commandos from the UAE were given instruction in amphibious operations during a 60-week Royal Marines course. The training reportedly continues to the present day. According to Declassified UK, the Royal Navy has five sailors, including a Lt-Commander, on loan to the Toad Navy. Three of the individuals are listed as instructors, suggesting that they could possibly be providing regular training to Toad personnel. Some instruction coming from the UK has been provided by the private sector; BAE Systems, Britain’s largest arms firm, has a contract to train the Toad navy.

The Toad & UAE blockade, part of the coalition’s campaign against the Houthi rebels in Yemen, has been denounced by the international community as illegal. The UN’s special rapporteur on human rights and sanctions, Idriss Jazairy, warned that the embargo was “paralyzing a nation” and amounted to an “unlawful unilateral coercive measure under international law.” Millions of Yemenis now face starvation due in part to the sea blockade. The humanitarian catastrophe has not deterred London from increasing its involvement in the conflict. On Tuesday, International Trade Secretary Liz Truss confirmed that the UK will resume arms sales to the Toads. The UK temporarily halted weapons deliveries to Riyadh after a court ruling in Jun 2019 found that the practice was unlawful. The British government now claims that, although there is cause for concern, “possible” war crimes carried out by the Toad & UAE forces are only “isolated incidents.”

Evidence emerges of UK Navy’s complicity in sea blockade of Yemen
Phil Miller, Declassified UK, Jul 7 2020

PM Johnson and Sec Def Wallace with a naval officer in London

The Royal Navy’s role in the world’s worst humanitarian disaster has emerged after freedom of information requests by Declassified found extensive evidence of UK support for the Toad/UAE sea blockade of Yemen. Aid agencies have repeatedly condemned the naval embargo on Yemen’s Red Sea coast, which UN experts have described as violating international humanitarian law. HRW says the blockade has “severely restricted the flow of food, fuel, and medicine to civilians” during the last five years. War broke out in Mar 2015 when the Toads & UAE began attempting to dislodge Houthi rebels from Yemen’s capital. The fighting was so ferocious that the head of the ICRC, Peter Maurer, described the situation as “catastrophic” and said:

Yemen after five months looks like Syria after five years. This cannot go on. Yemen is crumbling. As a matter of urgency, there must be free movement of goods into and across the country. Deliveries of food, water and medicine should be facilitated.

A Yemeni medic checks a malnourished baby inside an incubator at the neonatal intensive care unit
of a hospital in Sana’a, 2019. (Photo:Yahya Arhab/EPA)

Days after Maurer’s warning in Aug 2015, the Toads bombed Hodeidah, one of Yemen’s largest ports, and destroyed a series of cranes used for unloading vital food aid. Save the Children said the port bombing was “the final straw” for innocent civilians. Despite this attack, Declassified has found that in Sep 2015, the month after the Hodeidah docks were hit, a naval officer from the UAE was invited to HMS Collingwood near Portsmouth in southern England to attend a four-week course teaching skills that could be used for blockading Yemen. Sessions included “counter-smuggling,” “board and search” and using aircraft to support an “Exclusive Economic Zone” (EEZ), the area of water that extends 200 miles off a country’s coast containing its fishing and resource rights. The UAE has one of the most powerful navies in the region and has played a key role in the sea blockade. At the start of the conflict it built a military base at Assab on the coast of Eritrea, a highly repressive country which the Economist has dubbed “Africa’s North Korea”. The move gave the UAE navy access to a deep-water port directly overlooking Yemen.

A Royal Navy captain speaks to a naval officer from the UAE during a joint exercise.
(Photo: EPA / Mazen Mahdi)

Then in Dec 2015, the son of the Crown Prince of Bahrain, another key country in the coalition, graduated from the Royal Navy’s officer academy in Dartmouth. His father, Prince Salman bin Hamad al-Khalifa, watched the graduation ceremony as a guest of honour. Some sources suggest that Bahrain’s small navy has contributed to the sea blockade, and Bahraini soldiers are known to have died fighting in Yemen. UK ministers are currently forbidden by a court ruling from allowing new arms exports to Bahrain for possible use in Yemen. Al-Khalifa’s visit to Dartmouth was followed in Mar 2016 by Royal Navy officers spending a week in Toad Arabia training 15 sailors how to “board and search” vessels in “international waters or territorial seas.” According to a Royal Navy brochure, the course focused on “reducing unnecessary risks to the Boarding Team while maximising use of effective law enforcement.” Topics included detention procedures and “high-risk search techniques” as well as international law.

Naval officers from Toad Arabia and the UAE received ‘board and search’ training from the UK. (Credit: MOD FOI response)

The Royal Navy then provided an “Exclusive Economic Zone Protection Officer course” to Toad and UAE personnel between Sep 2016 and Mar 2017, followed by mobile sea training with the Toad Navy. Andrew Smith from Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT) told Declassified:

The Toad/UAE coalition has shown a total disregard for international law and Yemeni lives. Its devastating and immoral blockade has only served to punish Yemen and exacerbate the crisis. It has killed a huge number of people by stopping vital supplies from reaching those that need it. This training is symptomatic of the toxic and dangerous relationship between the UK Government and the Toad/UAE forces. The UK should be condemning the atrocities that have been inflicted by the Saudi naval forces and their coalition partners. It definitely should not be arming, training and conspiring with those that are responsible for such a callous act.

A Toad naval officer on the bridge of the UK navy ship St Albans during a joint exercise in the Gulf in 2016. (Photo: Navy)

British training has not stopped its partners from conducting atrocities. In Mar 2017, 32 refugees were killed when their boat was shot at by a helicopter off the coast of Yemen. HRW believes the incident was probably a war crime and has attributed it to the Toad/UAE coalition, as it is the only side in the conflict to possess such aircraft. By this stage, the UN’s special rapporteur on human rights and sanctions, Idriss Jazairy, was warning that the blockade was “paralysing a nation” with seven million people facing famine. Jazairy said that the naval blockade amounted to “an unlawful unilateral coercive measure under international law.” The Royal Navy continued working with Toad & UAE forces before and after this warning, and with Bahrain, where it has a permanent base. Between 2015 and 2018, British marines held three military exercises in Bahrain, known as “Pearl Dagger,” where they spent nearly a month at a time training their counterparts in live firing, close-quarter marksmanship and battle tactics. Sayed Ahmed Alwadaei from the Bahrain Institute for Rights & Democracy (BIRD) called the training “shameful and abhorrent.” He commented:

In return for providing the UK with a naval base in Bahrain, the government is facilitating an unprecedented humanitarian catastrophe.

The commander of Bahrain’s navy meets Britain’s then defence secretary Michael Fallon during Exercise Pearl Dagger in Dec 2015. (Photo: Navy)

By 2019, five years of fighting and blockade had left nearly 10m Yemenis “one step away from famine”, according to the UN’s World Food Programme. UNICEF called on all warring parties “to allow humanitarian deliveries to children and their families wherever they are in the country.” The UK government appeared to recognise these concerns, with an aid minister telling Parliament:

It is absolutely vital that Yemen is kept open to humanitarian access and commercial supplies and personnel, upon which the Yemeni population depend. We are raising the importance of these points at the highest levels.

However, the Royal Navy continued to deliver further training in skills that could help to maintain the blockade. The UAE navy received lessons in how to “board and search” vessels during 2019, and a UAE naval officer attended an “international electronic warfare manager” course at HMS Collingwood. Meanwhile nine Toad subjects along with cadets from Bahrain, UAE and Egypt attended the Royal Navy’s officer academy at Dartmouth. Nearby on England’s south coast at Lympstone, an unspecified number of commandos from the UAE went on the 60-week Royal Marines young officer course, which included training on “amphibious and helicopter operations.” In Sep 2019, UK trade secretary Liz Truss had to apologise for accidentally allowing the export of security equipment to the UAE Navy, in breach of a court order in Jun 2019 to halt new arms exports which the coalition could use in Yemen. Between the blockade starting and that court ruling, the UK licenced the export of £42m worth of warship equipment to the UAE and £10m worth to the Toads. In addition to delivering courses and military equipment, the Royal Navy has five sailors, including a Lt-Commander, permanently on loan to the Toad Navy. Declassified has found that three of the team are listed as instructors, meaning that they can provide full-time training at the King Fahd Naval Academy at Jubail on the Gulf coast, where they are stationed. Britain’s largest arms company, BAE Systems, also has a contract to train the Toad navy. Amnesty International’s UK security programme director Oliver Feeley-Sprague told Declassified:

Given the Toad/UAE bloody record over civilian deaths in Yemen, it’s deeply concerning that the Navy and Marines thought it right to continue with these training programmes regardless. At the very least, these programmes should have been paused following last year’s Court of Appeal ruling, under which the UK was supposed to halt arms sales to the Coalition. Whether it’s the Toad or Emirati militaries, or police forces in HK or Pindostan, the UK is dangerously cavalier over who it sells its arms and security equipment to, while providing a range of training to military and security forces with extremely troubling human rights records. We need to see the UK adopting a more responsible and more proactive ‘risk-mitigation’ approach to both its arms sales and its training programmes.

An MOD spox told Declassified:

We have an ongoing and wide-ranging defence engagement relationship with the Toads, which has included the provision of training courses and advice and guidance in the UK and Toad Arabia. The training provided also covers International Humanitarian Law. All UK military personnel in Toad Arabia are under UK command and control.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.