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Case against British arms sale to Saudi moves to High Court

British human rights campaigners protest against arms sales to Saudi Arabia [Campaign Against Arms Trade/Flickr]
Human rights campaigners protest against arms sale to Saudi Arabia [Campaign Against Arms Trade/Flickr]

British arms sales to Saudi Arabia are being challenged at the High Court today, in a judicial review brought by campaigners who have accused the UK of being complicit in Saudi atrocities in the conflict in Yemen.

Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT) succeeded in its bid for a judicial review last summer into whether arms sales to Saudi Arabia breach British and European weapons export laws.

Saudi Arabia is Britain's biggest weapons client: the government has licensed exports worth £6.8 billion since David Cameron entered Downing Street. This includes £3.3 billion since the beginning of the war in Yemen in 2015.

Read: Saudi remains committed to Yemen offensive

The review, which is expected to last three days, follows allegations of widespread and systematic targeting of civilians in Saudi-led airstrikes on Yemen. A UN report leaked to the Guardian newspaper found 119 strikes that it said violated international humanitarian law, including attacks on health facilities, schools, wedding parties and camps for internally displaced people and refugees.

Last year, British Member of Parliament from the business and international development parliamentary select committees recommended that arms sales to Yemen should be suspended until an enquiry into the allegations of breaches of international law was complete.

Under UK arms sales rules, export licences should not be granted if there is a "clear risk" that the arms may be used to break international humanitarian law.

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Andrew Smith, a spokesman for CAAT, said: "For almost two years now, the UK has been complicit in the destruction of Yemen. UK fighter jets and bombs have played a central role in the bombardment, and UK political support has helped to underpin and legitimise it."

"We are always being told that the UK stands for free speech and democracy, yet it has sold billions of pounds worth of arms to one of the most brutal and repressive regimes in the world to use against one of the poorest countries in the region."

CAAT will cite the UN, EU and a panel of experts to claim that the indiscriminate nature of the airstrikes by Saudi Arabia in Yemen means there is a significant risk that British arms are being used in strikes that break international humanitarian law.

Europe & RussiaMiddle EastNewsSaudi ArabiaUKYemen
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