UK challenged over failure to revoke arms exports to Saudi Arabia

By agency reporter
June 24, 2011

Lawyers acting on behalf of Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT) have written to the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) laying out their intention to request a judicial review of his department's failure to revoke any licences for the export of military equipment to Saudi Arabia, despite evidence that UK-manufactured armoured vehicles have been deployed by the Saudi government in Bahrain to help suppress democracy protesters.

The UK government's export licensing criteria states that it will “not issue an export licence if there is a clear risk that the proposed export might be used for internal repression”.

While the government has revoked some export licences to countries where there have been protests during the Arab Spring, such as Bahrain itself, it has not revoked licences to Saudi Arabia. CAAT argues that, with Saudi Arabian forces present in Bahrain, it is clear that their equipment might be used for internal repression. In addition, UK weaponry might be used for internal repression within Saudi Arabia, which is on the Foreign Office's list of countries with "the most serious wide-ranging human rights concerns".

Kaye Stearman, CAAT's spokesperson, commented: "We contend that the failure of the UK government to act to revoke arms export licences to Saudi Arabia is unlawful and cannot be justified. The difference in the treatment of Bahrain, where licences have been revoked, and Saudi Arabia, where they have not, further undermines the government's credibility."

* The full copy of the letter can be found on CAAT website.


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