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UK Court considers legality of resuming arms sales to Saudi Arabia

January 31, 2023 at 1:37 pm

The Royal Courts of Justice on The Strand in central London. [NIKLAS HALLE’N/AFP via Getty Images]

The UK’s High Court of Justice in London will consider, on Tuesday, the legality of the British government’s decision to resume the sale of weapons to Saudi Arabia that could be used in the war in Yemen.

The non-governmental organisation, Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT), a UK-based organisation, filed the lawsuit, accusing the British government of contributing to the violation of international law and causing the largest humanitarian disaster in the world that results in the death of tens of thousands of people.

The legal review is expected to take until the end of the week.

The organisation filed the lawsuit after Britain announced, in the summer of 2020, the resumption of arms sales to Saudi Arabia.

Ahead of the hearing, the organisation’s media coordinator, Emily Apple, accused the British government of caring “more about profit than war crimes and the deaths of civilians”.

The organisation first won its case against the government in 2019, when an appeals court ruled that Britain’s license to sell arms to Saudi Arabia was illegal.

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The Court said the government had failed to assess whether the arms sales violated its commitment to human rights and ordered it to “reconsider the matter”.

During her tenure at the Department of International Trade, Liz Truss conducted a review and announced in 2020 that export licenses would resume.

Truss stressed that Riyadh has a real intention and ability to comply with international humanitarian law, despite isolated incidents.

The organisation accused Truss of having “only verbally supported” a review of the arms sales.

A spokeswoman for the organisation described Truss’s reference to “isolated incidents” as “utter nonsense and deeply insulting to all Yemenis whose lives have been destroyed by British weapons”.

CAAT stated that, since 2015, the British government has licensed the sale of weapons to Riyadh, including combat aircraft, guided bombs and missiles, at a value of £7.9 billion pounds ($9.8 billion).

It added that Britain is one of the largest arms suppliers to Saudi Arabia, along with the US.

Martin Butcher, Oxfam’s Peace and Conflict Adviser, said Saudi airstrikes were responsible for a significant proportion of the attacks on civilians in Yemen.

“It is necessary to examine the legality of British arms sales and stop it immediately,” he added.

In 2021, charities criticised the British government for reducing its humanitarian aid to Yemen to half.

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