Amnesty International Protests Weapons Ship Visit to Spain

Source: Amnesty International
Source: Amnesty International

Published Dec 11, 2019 8:20 PM by The Maritime Executive

Amnesty International has protested the arrival of the Saudi Arabia state-owned cargo ship Bahri Abha this week at the port of Sagunto, Valencia, Spain.

The vessel arrived despite calls from organizations such as Amnesty International, FundiPau, Greenpeace and Oxfam Intermón for the government to prevent its entry into a Spanish port.

The organizations, which make up the Spanish Control Arms campaign, protested at the port, demanding that the Spanish government prohibit the transit and loading in Spain of weapons likely to be used to commit war crimes.

The Bahri Abha visited several ports on the east coast of the U.S. before announcing a sudden route change to Sagunto on November 26. It is unknown if it is carrying arms on its current voyage, but Amnesty International says it seems highly likely based on its recent history.

According to bills of lading data analysed by Amnesty International, since the war in Yemen began in 2015, the Bahri Abha has transferred some $162 million worth of arms on eight voyages from the U.S. to Saudi Arabia. Almost a quarter of this has been in 2019, and the majority has been military aircraft components. Amnesty International notes the Saudi Arabia and Emirati-led Coalition’s air war over Yemen has killed and injured thousands of civilians, including in attacks that violated international humanitarian law.

In addition the NGO fears the ship may also load new weapons in Spain. This was the case with another ship from the same fleet, the Bahri Yanbu, which loaded weapons destined for the United Arab Emirates in Santander in May this year.

“Exports to the Saudi Arabia and Emirati-led Coalition are illegal because they violate Spanish and international law,” says Alberto Estévez, spokesperson for the Spanish Control Arms campaign. “The Spanish government has an obligation to respect and ensure respect for international humanitarian law. If officials allow this operation, they risk being complicit in the commission of war crimes. The government must therefore prevent this ship from loading arms in Sagunto or transporting arms to Saudi Arabia that would likely be used in atrocities in Yemen.”

The armed conflict in Yemen began in March 2015. By the end of 2019, over 233,000 Yemenis will have been killed as a result of the fighting or the humanitarian crisis; some 14.3 million people are at risk of famine; and 24 million, out of a population of 29 million, need humanitarian assistance to survive.

One person out of three in Yemen – mostly women and children – is on the brink of famine. More than 16 million people do not have access to drinking water, and 15 million do not have access to minimum health services since hospitals are closing due to lack of resources.

The UN, as well as international and Yemeni NGOs, have documented dozens of serious violations, including war crimes, by all parties to the conflict, including direct attacks on civilians and civilian objects, indiscriminate and disproportionate attacks, arbitrary detention, enforced disappearances and torture. Amnesty International says it has documented at least 41 air strikes by the Saudi coalition that allegedly violated international humanitarian law, many of which could constitute war crimes. These attacks alone resulted in 512 civilian deaths and 433 civilian injuries.

In response to public pressure, several countries, including the Netherlands, Belgium, Greece and Germany, have suspended all or part of their arms sales to Saudi Arabia, the UAE and other coalition members. Following the murder of Saudi Arabian journalist Jamal Khashoggi, several more European states announced the suspension of arms transfers to Saudi Arabia, including Norway, Finland and Denmark.