Campaigners welcome reports on arms sales to Saudi Arabia

By agency reporter
September 21, 2016

The Committee on Arms Export Controls has called for an immediate ban on arms exports to Saudi Arabia for use in Yemen and the Foreign Affairs Committee has called for courts to decide on the legality of the exports. It has also supported calls for a UN investigation.

Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT) has welcomed the Business, Innovation and Skills and International Development Committees' call for an end to arms sales to Saudi Arabia.

The report, produced by the two cross-party committees, notes that “it seems inevitable that any violations of international humanitarian and human rights law by the coalition have involved arms supplied from the UK... We therefore recommend that HM Government suspend sales of arms which could be used in Yemen to Saudi Arabia until the independent, UN-led investigation has come to its conclusions and then review the situation again.”

Since the bombing campaign began in March 2015, the UK has licensed £3.3 billion worth of arms to Saudi Arabia, including:

  • £2.2 billion worth of ML10 licences (Aircraft, helicopters, drones)
  • £1.1 billion worth of ML4 licences (Grenades, bombs, missiles, countermeasures)
  • £430,000 worth of ML6 licences (Armoured vehicles, tanks)

Andrew Smith of Campaign Against Arms Trade said: "The report is definitely to be welcomed, although it should not have taken 18 months since the bombing began for arms sales to be scrutinised in this way. The humanitarian catastrophe in Yemen has only got worse, and the government’s response has been to sell even more weapons. The UK has been complicit in the destruction; now it must act to stop it. That means ending the arms sales and ending its uncritical support for the Saudi regime."

The report was originally meant to be released by the Committee on Arms Export Controls (CAEC). The committees were split, with the report only being signed-off by two of the committees that make up the membership of CAEC (Business, Innovation and Skills and International Development).

The Foreign Affairs Committee (FAC) has released its own report into arms exports to Saudi Arabia. It calls for a UN investigation into the conduct of the Saudi-led bombardment but argues that arms exports should not be suspended until the conclusion of a forthcoming judicial review into the legality of sales. The review follows an application by CAAT.

The FAC has also noted that “British interest in continued UK-Saudi relations cannot override the UK’s wider legal and moral obligations.”

Andrew Smith said: "The committee is right to call for a UN investigation. The Saudi regime has shown a contempt for human rights and clearly can not be trusted to investigate itself for war crimes. The committee is also right to argue that arms company interests can not override human rights, yet it is calling for any suspension to be delayed for at least another four months.

"It should not take a court case for the UK to stop arming one of the most repressive dictatorships in the world while it is creating a humanitarian catastrophe in Yemen, one of the poorest countries. The evidence that Saudi Arabia is violating international humanitarian law is overwhelming, and our legal action can not be used as an excuse to carry on with business as usual."

UK arms sales to Saudi Arabia are currently subject to a judicial review, following an application by CAAT. The claim calls on the government to suspend all extant licences and stop issuing further arms export licences to Saudi Arabia for use in Yemen while it holds a full review into if the exports are compatible with UK and EU legislation. A three day review will take place in front of two judges no later than 01 February 2017.

* Read the joint report here and the Foreign Affairs Committee report here



Although the views expressed in this article do not necessarily represent the views of Ekklesia, the article may reflect Ekklesia's values. If you use Ekklesia's news briefings please consider making a donation to sponsor Ekklesia's work here.