On 30 March 2017 Anti-war protesters attempted to conduct a citizen’s arrest of Saudi Arabia’s Major General Ahmed Asiri, who is in London today. Asiri, an adviser to Saudi Arabia’s Deputy Crown Prince and spokesman for the coalition in Yemen visited London today to speak at the European Council on Foreign Relations (ECFR). Anti-war campaigner Sam Waldron attempted the citizen’s arrest of Asiri, but was pushed back by Saudi embassy security.
In response to the action, the Saudi embassy in the UK issued serious of tweets accusing the protesters of “attempted attack” on the Major. the Tweets were followed by an official statement reported on the Saudi Press Agency (SPA) today (31 March).
The foreign policy think tank is hosting Asiri at an event which they describe as a discussion “on the conflict in Yemen, including coalition operations and aims, action against al-Qa’ida in the Arabian Peninsula, and the humanitarian crisis. The General also will discuss the Kingdom’s efforts to promote a negotiated political solution to the conflict.”
General Asiri is a spokesperson for the Saudi Coalition in Yemen and a senior advisor to the Saudi Arabian Defence Minister. Asiri has been the public face of the brutal bombardment. In November 2016 Asiri told ITV that Saudi forces had not been using cluster bombs in Yemen, only for Saudi forces to later admit that they had.
On Tuesday, Asiri met with MPs to brief them ahead of a debate on the humanitarian situation in Yemen.
Sam Walton, who attempted the arrest said: “Asiri represents a regime that has killed thousands in Yemen and shown a total contempt for international law. I tried to arrest him because of the war crimes he has overseen and propagated for, but he was surrounded by bodyguards who roughly forced me away. Asiri shouldn’t be welcomed and treated like a dignitary, he should be arrested and investigated for war crimes.”
Andrew Smith of Campaign Against Arms Trade said: “General Asiri is a mouthpiece for a devastating bombing campaign that has killed thousands of civilians and destroyed vital infrastructure. He should not be getting invited to address parliamentarians and think tanks to whitewash the atrocities that are taking place. The voices that need to be heard are those of Yemeni people who are victim of a humanitarian catastrophe – not those that are inflicting it. If the UK is to play a positive role in bringing peace then it must end its complicity and end the arms sales. “
Sayed Ahmed Alwadaei, Director of Advocacy, Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy, was at the protest. He said: “The Saudi regime has an appalling human rights record domestically and internationally. It tortures Saudi people and has supported crackdowns all over the Middle East, including Bahrain where Saudi forces have helped to suppress the peaceful pro-democracy movement. Asiri has been central to the regime and to whitewashing its terrible crimes.”
Saudi Arabia is accused of war crimes in Yemen and has been criticised for its war campaign, which critics say has contributed to a man-made humanitarian disaster. Amnesty International has recorded 34 air strikes carried out by the Saudi coalition that appear to violate international humanitarian law. Doctors Without Borders (MSF) has criticised the bombing of their hospitals by Saudi Arabia airstrikes. MSF state their hospitals were far from military targets and their GPS coordinates had been provided to all parties in the conflict.
The UK is a major seller of arms to Saudi Arabia, the biggest market for British arms. The UK Government has been criticised for ignoring the advice of its arms exports experts who called for a suspension of arms sales to Saudi Arabia.
The Campaign Against the Arms Trade (CAAT) has brought a case against the British government to the High Court in London of its decision to continue granting arms exports licenses to Saudi Arabia. The High Court is reviewing the legality of arms sales to Saudi Arabia. Following hearings in February, a ruling is expected. A High Court ruling in favour of CAAT would set a historic precedent on the legality of arms sales, and could lead to their suspension under the law.
An estimated 10,000 have died in the Yemen conflict according to the UN, a significant proportion of them civilians. In June 2016, the UN put Saudi Arabia and its coalition partners on a black list of child killers. UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon was forced to back down from this position when Saudi Arabia threatened to pull its UN funding.
Additional Info: Tweets from Demonstrators
Sam Walton explaining his attempted citizen arrest to the Metropolitan Police: https://twitter.com/CAATuk/status/847419915954868224
Saudi embassy security push Sam Walton and other protesters away from Ahmed Asiri as they attempt the citizen’s arrest: https://twitter.com/CAATuk/status/847417601747582977
Saudi General gives finger to protesters attempting citizen’s arrest over Yemen atrocities (RUPTLY):
Saudi Embassy in UK’s response
.@SaudiEmbassyUK says Asiri was subjected to an “attempted attack” by protesters, &his UK’s schedule continues “unchanged”
— Sayed Ahmed AlWadaei (@SAlwadaei) March 31, 2017
Saudi Press Agency (SPA) issued a statement today (31 March): http://www.spa.gov.sa/viewfullstory.php?lang=ar&newsid=1610297#1610297
Bahrain News Agency: Embassy: Coalition spokesman safe: http://www.bna.bh/portal/en/news/778267