LONDON (Middle East Eye) – The UK government’s decision to resume selling arms to Saudi Arabia, following a one-year pause, is set to face another legal challenge.
Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT) announced on Tuesday that it had launched a judicial review application into the UK’s decision to renew selling arms to the Saudi-led coalition involved in Yemen.
In June 2019, all new British arms sales to Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt, Bahrain and Kuwait were suspended after a lengthy legal battle. The Court of Appeal ruled that the UK government had failed to make an assessment of whether there was a risk that the weapons could be used to breach international humanitarian law in Yemen.
Britain has since resumed arms sales to the coalition, after International Trade Secretary Liz Truss told MPs in July that there were no patterns or trends of violations of international law by Saudi forces in Yemen, and any breaches were "isolated incidents”.
CAAT has accused the government of providing little information on how it came to this conclusion and of prolonging the conflict through arms sales.
"Tens of thousands of people have been killed in this brutal bombardment, yet arms companies have profited every step of the way,” Andrew Smith, a spokesperson from Campaign Against Arms Trade, said.
"Last year the Court of Appeal found that the government had acted illegally, and nothing that we have seen since suggests otherwise.
"The government may think that the widespread destruction of schools, hospitals and homes can be dismissed as ‘isolated incidents’ but we do not. These arms sales are immoral, and we are confident that the court will confirm that the decision to renew them was illegal.”
Saudi Arabia and a number of its regional allies launched a war on Yemen in March 2015 in an attempt to subdue a popular uprising that had overthrown a regime friendly to Riyadh.
The United Nations describes Yemen as the world’s largest humanitarian crisis, with 80% of the population reliant on humanitarian aid. UN officials are trying to revive talks to end the Saudi-led war which has killed more than 100,000 people and pushed Yemen to the brink of famine.
Rosa Curling, from the law firm Leigh Day, which represents CAAT, said that every international body that had investigated violations of international human rights law by Saudi Arabia in Yemen had found repeated violations.
"Despite this, our government has determined it appropriate to continue to arm the coalition, a decision which our client considers unlawful and a decision we hope the court will overturn as a matter of priority,” Curling said.
New figures released by the UK government just this month revealed that Saudi Arabia were by far the world’s biggest military spenders over the past decade, having purchased $116bn in arms - twice as much as any other country.