Gina Davidson: Where is the government's integrity in arms deals to Qatar?

17 November 2022, 11:09

Gina Davidson asks where is the government's integrity in having arm's deals with Qatar
Gina Davidson asks where is the government's integrity in having arm's deals with Qatar. Picture: Global
Gina Davidson

By Gina Davidson

Our latest Prime Minister talks a lot about integrity, and how that quality sits at the heart of the kind of government he wants to run.

It speaks to the idea he is a politician with a strong moral code. Rishi Sunak: he knows right from wrong.

So he must know that the licensing by the UK government of billions of pounds worth of sales of arms to Qatar, a country whose appalling human rights record has come under huge focus thanks to the wrong-headed decision of FIFA to allow it to host the World Cup, sits in the latter category?

Around £3.4bn of arms have been licensed to Qatar since the Conservatives came to power in 2010 - ironically, the same year Qatar won the right to host the football competition. Surely it’s time to call a halt to that trade?

The figures have been produced by the Scottish Greens and the Campaign Against Arms Trade; figures they've crunched from the UK government's own statistics.

The arms sales include helicopters and drones, grenades, bombs and missiles, tanks, machine guns and ammunition, body armour and "security and paramilitary police goods" - the latter leading to fears that not only are UK arms being used by Qatari military but also by its police force, against its own people, and potentially football fans from around the world.

Of course, Qatar is not the only country of dubious human rights reputation that the UK happily sells arms to - but it should not sit well with a man of integrity.We all know there has been the widespread abuse of migrant workers in Qatar; shipped in to build stadia, they have suffered wage theft, illegal recruitment fees, injuries and even death. More than 6,500 migrant workers from India, Pakistan, Nepal, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka have reportedly died since 2010.

Then there's the fact Qatari women must obtain permission from their male family members to marry, study abroad, work in many government jobs and receive certain reproductive health care.

Qatar’s penal code criminalises all forms of sex outside marriage, with sentences of up to seven years in prison. If the women are Muslim, they can also be sentenced to floggings or stoning. Reporting rape can be deemed as a confession.That same penal code punishes consensual sexual relations between men above the age of 16 with up to seven years in prison and provides penalties of between one and three years for any male who is believed to have “instigated” or “enticed” another male to “commit an act of sodomy or immorality.”

Indeed, it's the punishment of LGBT people which has focused the minds of many footballers, fans and politicians.

But despite all of that, Foreign Secretary James Cleverly is still attending the World Cup. Perhaps the billions of pounds worth of arms business explains just why.Of course, it's not illegal to sell arms to Qatar, but it smacks of a certain kind of political hypocrisy should the UK government seek raise human rights issues during the World Cup in the knowledge that it's UK arms which are being used to keep Qataris in line.

It’s not surprising the Scottish Greens say the UK government is complicit in human rights abuses as a result of these sales.

It certainly doesn't feel like integrity.