Judgment due in legal battle over UK arms deals to Saudi Arabia

By agency reporter
May 3, 2018

The Court of Appeal will give its judgment on Friday 4 May 2018 in a legal battle by campaigners to overturn a High Court judgment which allows the UK Government to continue to export arms to Saudi Arabia for use in Yemen.

The judgment, which will determine whether the appeal is to be heard by the Court of Appeal, follows a one-day permission hearing which took place on Thursday 12 April 2018.

Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT) is asking for permission to appeal against a judgment by the High Court on 10 July 2017 which did not find the granting of licences for the export of arms from the UK to Saudi Arabia unlawful, despite global concern that these weapons could be used to commit serious violations of international humanitarian law.

Lawyers Leigh Day, representing CAAT, argued that the decision to grant the licences was in breach of the UK arms export policy, which clearly states the government must deny such licences if there is a 'clear risk' arms 'might' be used in 'a serious violation of International Humanitarian Law'.

The judicial review brought against the Secretary of State for International Trade, Liam Fox, over his decision to allow these export licences to be granted, follows serious allegations that Saudi forces might have used UK arms in serious violations of international humanitarian law during their ongoing bombardment of Yemen.

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' attacks on civilian targets.

Half of the hearings were conducted in 'closed sessions.' Neither the claimant nor their lawyers were able to be present for these 'closed' sessions.

Before the hearing in April, Andrew Smith of Campaign Against Arms Trade said: "Thousands of people have been killed since the verdict last July, and the humanitarian situation has only got worse, yet the arms sales have continued.

"We believe that these arms sales haven't just been immoral, they have also been illegal. We hope the Court allows our appeal to go ahead, and that the government is held to account for the consequences of the arms sales it has supported and promoted."

Ahead of the hearing in April, Rosa Curling of Leigh Day said: "The law is clear: where there is a clear risk UK arms might be used in the commission of serious violations of international law, arms sales cannot go ahead.

"Nothing in the open evidence, presented by the UK government to the High Court suggested this risk does not exist in relation to arms to Saudi Arabia. Indeed, all the evidence we have seen from Yemen suggests the opposite: the risk is very real. You need only look at the devastating reality of the situation there."

* UK government statistics show that since the bombardment began in 2015, the UK has licensed £4.6 billion worth of arms to Saudi Arabia, including:

£2.7 billion worth of ML10 licences (Aircraft, helicopters, drones)
£1.9 billion worth of ML4 licences (Grenades, bombs, missiles, countermeasures)

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

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