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UK court: Arms sales to Saudi Arabia can continue despite fears of war crimes

Amnesty International activists march with homemade replica missiles bearing the message 'Made in Britain, destroying lives in Yemen' across Westminster Bridge towards Downing Street during a protest over UK arms sales to Saudi Arabia in March
Activists march with homemade replica missiles bearing the message 'Made in Britain, destroying lives in Yemen' during a protest over UK arms sales to Saudi Arabia in London, UK on March 2016

The British High Court ruled today that the UK can continue to sell arms to Saudi Arabia after a campaign group lost its legal bid to have the lucrative weapons’ deal suspended.

Lawyers for Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT) took their case to the high court alleging that weapons sold by the UK to Saudi Arabia are being used in bombing campaigns in Yemen which the UN and various human rights organisations contend was violating international law.

They allege that there is “overwhelming evidence” that UK-made weapons are being used in violations of International Humanitarian Law, including bombing of hospitals”, but judges ruled that the $3.5 billion of arms deal, thought to be Britain’s largest, can continue as normal.

Read: US, UK slammed for arms sales to Saudi

CAAT successfully argued its case to have the arms deal scrutinised by the high court a year ago. It was granted permission for a judicial review into whether arms sales to the Saudi Kingdom was in breach of British and European weapons export law. The high profile case was then brought to the judges last February. In launching their legal bid CAAT cited numerous reputable bodies including a UK parliamentary committee that concluded:

Given the evidence we have heard and the volume of UK-manufactured arms exported to Saudi Arabia, it seems inevitable that any violations of international humanitarian and human rights law by the coalition have involved arms supplied from the UK. This constitutes a breach of our own export licensing criteria.

These claims however were rejected and the judge ruled that the UK was not acting unlawfully in selling arms to Saudi Arabia.

#YemeniCrisis

This ruling further reinforces the allegation that the British government is protecting the Saudis and its lucrative arms deals after the British Prime Minister, Theresa May, was accused last week of “covering up” a report exposing terrorism funding by Saudi Arabia.

Prominent British MPs accused Number Ten of burying a report that was originally commissioned by the former Prime Minster David Cameron. May was said to have been in possession of the report, which examined the origin and scale of funding of UK extremist groups, for the past six months.

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