High Court to consider legality of arms exports to Saudi Arabia

By agency reporter
January 11, 2017

Between 7 and 9 of February 2017, the High Court in London will hear a judicial review into the legality of UK arms exports to Saudi Arabia for use in the ongoing bombing of Yemen. The review follows an application by Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT).

Andrew Smith of Campaign Against Arms Trade said: "This legal action will set an important precedent. UK arms have been central to the devastation of Yemen and the humanitarian crisis it has caused. The fact that UK aircraft and bombs are being used in the destruction is a terrible sign of how the UK government is putting arms company profits ahead of human lives."

As set out in the claim, a range of international organisations including a UN Panel of Experts, the European Parliament and many humanitarian NGOs, have condemned the ongoing Saudi air strikes against Yemen as unlawful. The violations of international humanitarian law (IHL) found by the bodies listed include:

  • A failure to take all precautions in attack as required by IHL
  • Attacks causing disproportionate harm to civilians and civilian objects.
  • A failure to adhere to the principle of distinction and/or the targeting of civilians and civilian objects and those not directly participating in hostilities.
  • The destruction of Cultural Property and/or a failure to adhere to the immunity to be afforded to such property during armed conflict.

UK arms export licensing criteria say that licences should not be granted if there is a clear risk that equipment might be used in violation of IHL. By any reasonable understanding this should end arms exports to Saudi Arabia for use in Yemen.

  • £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 continued: "If our action is successful then it will set a vitally important precedent. If UK arms export criteria means anything at all then the government must end its complicity and stop arming Saudi Arabia."

The claim which will be considered calls on the Department of International Trade 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 the compatibility of the exports with UK and EU legislation.

* Campaign Against Arms Trade https://www.caat.org.uk/


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