UK court rejects bid to halt Saudi arms sales
London’s High Court rejected on Monday a claim by campaigners that Britain’s multi-billion-pound arms sales to Saudi Arabia should be halted because they were being used in Yemen in violation of international humanitarian law.
The Campaign Against the Arms Trade (CAAT) had sought an order to block export licenses for British-made bombs, fighter jets and other munitions.
An annual report by U.N. experts who monitor sanctions and the conflict in Yemen, seen by Reuters in January, said the Saudi-led coalition acting in support of the Yemeni government had carried out attacks that "may amount to war crimes". Riyadh rejects those accusations. The campaigners, also argued they were being used by the Saudi-led Arab coalition in Yemen in violation of international humanitarian law.
But on Monday, the High Court said "the claimant's claim for judicial review is dismissed".
The court, which heard much of the government's case in hearings closed to the media and public, said there had been extensive political and military engagement with Saudi Arabia regarding operations in Yemen and the Saudis had "sought positively to address concerns about International Humanitarian Law".
CAAT said it would appeal against the decision, calling the ruling "very disappointing".
"If this verdict is upheld then it will be seen as a green light for government to continue arming and supporting brutal dictatorships and human rights abusers like Saudi Arabia that have shown a blatant disregard for international humanitarian law," CAAT's Andrew Smith said in a statement.
CAAT had been seeking a judicial review over the government's decision to allow arms exports to continue to Saudi Arabia, a major customer for British defence companies and an important British ally in countering "terrorism".
Yemen's civil war started in 2015, pitting the exiled government of President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi, backed by the Saudi-led coalition, against the Houthi group, which controls most of northern Yemen, including the capital, Sanaa.
CAAT had argued that the government's decision to allow arms exports to continue to Saudi Arabia, a major customer for British defense companies and an important British ally in countering terrorism, was unlawful.
CAAT said it would appeal against the decision, and the leader of the opposition Labour party, Jeremy Corbyn, heavily criticized the government for its trade with Saudi Arabia.
"The government continues to sell arms to Saudi Arabia, one of the most oppressive and brutal regimes, that finances terrorism and is breaching humanitarian law," Corbyn said.