10 July 2017 – The United Kingdom’s High Court yesterday rejected a judicial review filed by the Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT) questioning the legality of the UK’s arms sales to Saudi Arabia in light of the kingdom’s deadly involvement in the conflict in Yemen. The High Court’s judgement clears the way for the UK to continue to license arms to Saudi Arabia. Americans for Democracy & Human Rights in Bahrain (ADHRB) strongly condemns the High Court’s decision and calls on the UK to immediately halt all arms sales to the kingdom.
According to the Yemen Data Project, since Saudi Arabia became involved in the conflict in Yemen in March 2015, it has conducted and participated in thousands of airstrikes in Yemen, many of which have struck residential areas. Saudi Arabia’s airstrikes have killed several thousand civilians and hit civilian buildings including hospitals, markets, refugee camps, a funeral home, and other infrastructure. As a result of these attacks, UN experts as well as human rights groups have alleged that these airstrikes have breached international humanitarian law and may have risen to the level of war crimes.
Since Saudi Arabia’s involvement in the Yemen conflict, the UK has sold the kingdom £3.3 billion ($4.25 billion) of arms, including fighter jets and munitions, while also training the pilots. As Andrew Smith of CAAT says, “the UK is not just a bystander in this war, it is an active participant.” Because of the UK’s involvement, CAAT brought its suit to the High Court, arguing that the UK arms export criteria prohibits the sale. According to the criteria, the UK may not sell weapons to a state when there is a “clear risk” that the arms may be used “in the commission of a serious violation of international humanitarian law.”
“The High Court’s decision that the UK’s weapons sales to Saudi Arabia are legal is confounding. There is clear evidence that Saudi is using UK weapons to violate international humanitarian law: the kingdom’s airstrikes have killed thousands of Yemenis and it has done so with UK bombs and jets,” states Husain Abdulla, Executive Director of ADHRB. “The ruling ignores these facts and clears the way for more arms sales to further fuel this war. It is also a green light to Saudi Arabia and the UK’s other Gulf allies like Bahrain to use UK weapons against civilian populations. Thus the court’s decision affirms the arming of serial human rights violators while demonstrating the UK’s disregard for human rights abuses.”
CAAT has vowed to appeal the ruling, but if the verdict is upheld, it will only serve to deepen the conflict in Yemen and lead to further civilian deaths and violence. ADHRB condemns the High Court’s ruling and calls on the UK government to immediately halt all arms sales to Saudi Arabia.