UK arms sales to Saudi Arabia ruled unlawful

A large crowd stand in front of the royal courts of justice. They are holding a banner with the words "Stop arming Saudi Arabia"

On Tuesday 18th June the UK's court of appeal has ruled that arms sales to Saudi Arabia are unlawful in an appeal brought against a previous decision by Campaign Against Arms Trade. Thousands of Yemeni civilians have been killed or injured in the war in Yemen, which started in 2015. Many casualties have been caused by Saudi air strikes which have included British-made bombs and planes. Since 2015, the UK has licensed £4.7bn worth of arms sales to Saudi Arabia. The decision means that the UK government must stop issuing new arms export licenses to Saudi Arabia.

The court decided it was ‘irrational and therefore unlawful’ for the Secretary of State for International Trade to have granted licences without making any assessment as to whether violations of international humanitarian law had taken place, accusing government ministers of ignoring whether airstrikes that led to civilian casualties in Yemen broke international humanitarian law when, in 2016, they signed off on arms exports without fully assessing the impact on civilians. The ministers included Boris Johnson, Jeremy Hunt and Liam Fox. The court said they had “made no concluded assessments of whether the Saudi-led coalition had committed violations of international humanitarian law in the past, during the Yemen conflict, and made no attempt to do so” and ordered the international trade secretary to immediately review £4.7bn worth of arms sales to Saudi Arabia.

Speaking in the House of Commons, Liam Fox said that the government would seek to appeal the decision.


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