Government has 'blood on hands' says serving soldier investigated for protesting against war in Yemen while wearing uniform
A serving soldier, under investigation by military police after protesting against the war in Yemen while wearing uniform, says the government has "blood on its hands".
Lance Corporal Ahmed al Babati carried out his action opposite Downing Street on Monday.
He had vowed to protest outside the Ministry of Defence (MoD) and blow a whistle every ten minutes, signalling how often a child is allegedly killed in the conflict.
The soldier, a member of the Royal Signals, was accompanied by a sign which said: ‘I refuse to continue my military service until the deal with Saudi comes to an end’.
LCpl al Babati, who was born in Yemen and joined the Army in 2017, was subsequently taken into the MoD by three uniformed Royal Military Police soldiers.
The soldier is understood to have been returned to his unit. An Army spokesman told the Telegraph that he was not being held in detention, but had not resumed normal duties. The spokesman said LCpl al Babati had received welfare support and access to an imam.
LCpl al Babati was protesting against British support for Saudi Arabia’s actions in the civil war in Yemen that has been raging since 2014. The fighting between Houthi rebels and a Saudi-led coalition has reportedly killed over 100,000 people.
The United Nations has said that Yemen faces a “perfect storm” of hunger, war, economic collapse, flooding and coronavirus.
In an Instagram post, LCpl al Babati said: “Saudi Arabia are [sic] responsible for multiple airstrikes killing innocents, targeting hospitals and breaking international law. Saudi Arabia are also responsible for blocking aid from going into the country. This has left 80 per cent of the population in need of emergency aid.
“Our government continues to arm and support Saudi Arabia.”
He said peaceful protests in London, Manchester and Liverpool and letters to MPs had had no effect.
“Clearly our words mean nothing to Boris Johnson,” he said. “It is clear that this government has blood on its hands.”
“I would rather sleep peacefully in a cell than stay silent for a paycheck.”
Military regulations allow serving personnel to participate in marches or demonstrations as private citizens as long they do so within certain rules.
Individuals are not allowed to wear uniform during a protest and cannot identify themselves as a member of the Armed Forces.
The Army cannot be linked to any political movements through a serving individual’s actions. This is to ensure that the Army’s political neutrality and impartiality are not brought into question.
Failure to comply with these instructions could result in administrative or disciplinary action being taken.
The Army spokesman said LCpl al Babati’s behaviour was deemed to be out of character. Any possible sanction is not known until the investigation is complete.
In a statement the Army said: “We are aware of a peaceful protest that took place in London involving a serving soldier. The matter is being investigated by the Royal Military Police and it would be inappropriate to comment further at this time.”
“Service personnel are entitled to participate in peaceful demonstrations as private citizens. However, this must be done in their own time, in civilian clothing, and in a manner that does not bring the Army into disrepute.”