Huge increase in arms sales to Saudi Arabia since Yemen bombing began

By agency reporter
November 13, 2017

Arms sales from the UK to Saudi Arabia in the first two years of the bombing of Yemen (April 2015 – April 2017) reached £4.6 billion. This amounts to a 170 per cent increase in the value of sales since the bombing began. During the two year period leading up to the bombing (March 2013-March 2015) the UK licensed £1.7 billion worth of arms to Saudi Arabia.

The increase in sales includes a major rise in licences for missiles and bombs. In the two years leading up to the war, the UK licensed £33 million worth of ML4 arms (ML4 includes bombs, missiles and countermeasures). In the period since it began, the government has licensed £1.9 billion worth.

It also includes a heavy increase in sales of military aircraft. The UK has licensed £2.6 billion worth of ML10 licences since the bombing began (aircraft, helicopters, drones) the majority of which are believed to be Eurofighter Typhoon licences. In the two years preceding the war, the UK licensed £1.6 billion worth of ML10 sales. This amounts to a 70 per cent increase in ML10 licences.

Tom Barns of Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT) said, "To see this increase in bombs and military aircraft sales at a time when Saudi Arabia is unleashing such utter devastation in Yemen is truly staggering. The United Nations has accused Saudi-led forces of killing hundreds of children and destroying schools and hospitals, yet the UK government seems to see the war as a business opportunity. Not only are these sales fuelling the ongoing conflict, they are also sending a message of political support to the brutal Saudi regime".

In February 2017, law firm Leigh Day, acting on behalf of CAAT in the High Court, argued that a range of international organisations, including the European Parliament and many humanitarian NGOs, have condemned the ongoing Saudi air strikes against Yemen as unlawful. In January 2016, a United Nations Panel of Experts accused Saudi Arabian forces of "widespread and systematic" targeting of civilians. Despite these serious allegations, the High Court ruled in July 2017 that the UK Government can continue exporting arms to Saudi Arabia for use in Yemen.

In October 2017, CAAT’s skeleton argument for appeal against the High Court decision, and the government’s response to the skeleton, were submitted to the Court of Appeal, and judges are currently considering these documents. CAAT has already been ordered to pay £40,000 in court fees, and has applied for the costs of the appeal to be capped at a further £30,000, but as yet has no guarantee that the associated costs will not be even higher than this. CAAT has launched a Crowdfunding campaign towards covering these costs.

Tom Barns of Campaign Against Arms Trade continued, "The new stats on bombs sales – alongside the news just weeks ago that the UN has blacklisted the Saudi regime for killing and maiming children in Yemen – show that our legal challenge to these arms sales is more important than ever.

"There is no way we can stand by while the UK government prioritises arms companies' profits over human lives in Yemen. But the potential financial costs to us of taking the case are huge. Over three quarters of the UK population agree that the UK should not sell arms to Saudi Arabia. We hope that those who can will help us to push for an end to the sales, by donating or sharing our crowdfunding campaign".

* CAAT's Crowdfunder can be accessed here

* All public legal documents relating to the case can be accessed here



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