UK high court rules arms sales to Saudi can continue - Gulf Business
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UK high court rules arms sales to Saudi can continue

UK high court rules arms sales to Saudi can continue

The Campaign Against Arms Trade had asked for export licences to be blocked due to alleged breaches of human rights laws in Yemen


The UK’s high court has ruled that the country can continue arms sales to Saudi Arabia, following a high-profile case launched by the Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT).

The group asked the court to block export licences for British-made military equipment to the kingdom claiming previous orders had been used in breach of human rights laws in Yemen.

“We have concluded that the material decisions of the secretary of state were lawful. We therefore dismiss the claim,” lord justice Burnett and justice Haddon-Cave said in an open judgment that followed three days of hearings in February.

“Saudi Arabia has been and remains genuinely committed to compliance with international humanitarian law.”

Much of the government’s case was made in hearings closed to the media and public due to UK political and military involvement with Saudi Arabia in its conduct of operations in Yemen.

A separate closed judgement was heard in secret due to national security concerns.

CAAT claimed the ruling, if upheld, was a “green light” for the UK government to sell arms to human rights abusers.

The kingdom is the largest buyer of UK weapons and has bought GBP3bn ($3.86bn) of arms in the past two years.

A further $8.6bn in booked orders are estimated over the next decade, according to IHS Jane’s Intelligence.

The Saudi government and its regional allies backed the internationally recognised government in Yemen following the outbreak of civil war in 2015 and have conducted air strikes and ground operations in the country.

Documents obtained by British newspaper The Guardian reportedly showed the UK was preparing to suspend exports after the bombing of a funeral in Yemen in October 2016.

But foreign secretary Boris Johnson advised secretary of state for international trade Liam Fox that sales should continue, according to the publication.

In their ruling, the judges stated that the UK has “considerable insight into the military systems, processes and procedures of Saudi Arabia adopted in Yemen”.

The UK government welcomed the judgment and said it would continue to keep defence exports “under careful review” to ensure they meet the standards of the Consolidated EU and National Arms Export Licensing Criteria.

CAAT spokesperson Andrew Smith described the verdict as disappointing and said the group was pursuing an appeal.


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