CAMPAIGN AGAINST ARMS TRADE (CAAT) has called on the UK to follow the US government in ending its support for the Saudi-led bombing of Yemen.

This follows reports that the Biden administration will end its support for the military campaign and will freeze arms sales to Saudi forces.

The US is the world’s largest arms exporter, with US sales accounting for around one third of the world’s total arms trade. The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute estimates that US-made arms have accounted for almost three quarters of the volume of all arms sales to Saudi Arabia from 2015-2019.

The UK has also been a major provider of arms for the Saudi-led coalition, and a major supporter of the ongoing Saudi-led bombing of Yemen.

Since the bombing of Yemen began in March 2015, the UK has licensed at least £5.4 billion worth of arms to the Saudi regime, including:

  • £2.7 billion worth of ML10 licences (Aircraft, helicopters, drones)
  • £2.5 billion worth of ML4 licences (Grenades, bombs, missiles, countermeasures)

In reality, the figures are likely to be a great deal higher, with most bombs and missiles being licensed via the opaque and secretive Open Licence system. The UK’s biggest arms company, BAE Systems, has made £15 billion in revenue from services and sales to Saudi Arabia since 2015.

In June 2019, the Court of Appeal ruled that the government acted unlawfully when it licensed the sale of UK-made arms to Saudi-led forces for use in Yemen without making an assessment as to whether or not past incidents amounted to breaches of International Humanitarian Law. This followed a case brought by CAAT. The government was ordered not to approve any new licences and to retake the decisions on extant licences in a lawful manner.

In July 2020 the government announced that it was resuming arms sales. This followed a review by the Department of International Trade which concluded that any violations of International Humanitarian Law committed by the Saudi coalition were ‘isolated incidents’, despite the fact that hundreds of attacks on residential areas, schools, hospitals, civilian gatherings, and agricultural land and facilities have been documented.

In October 2020, CAAT filed a new legal challenge against the government’s decision to resume sales.

Sarah Waldron of Campaign Against Arms Trade said: “The US Government is the biggest arms dealer in the world, so this could be an important step towards ending this terrible war. It also puts the spotlight firmly on to the UK government and companies that have armed, supported and enabled the brutal bombardment.

“Saudi-led forces have killed thousands of civilians and bombed schools, hospitals and homes. No matter how dire the crisis has become, they have been able to count on the uncritical political and military support of the UK government. That support must end, and so must have [sic] the arms sales that have done so much damage.”

* Source: Campaign Against Arms Trade