June 20, 2019Arms Sales International Security and Rule of Law
In a landmark judgment, the UK Court of Appeal has put the brakes on the devastating Saudi-led bombing campaign that relies on British made arms and has led to the deaths of over 8,000 Yemeni civilians. The Court of Appeal ruled, with immediate effect, that the UK must reconsider its decision to authorise arms exports to Saudi Arabia for use in the war in Yemen. In light of the growing evidence of attacks against civilians, it is time for the UK to immediately stop exporting military equipment to Saudi Arabia for possible use in the conflict in Yemen.
The Court found that the Government had failed to properly consider the growing and compelling body of independent evidence demonstrating a pattern of violations of international humanitarian law, some of them serious. This prevented the Government from making a proper determination as to whether there is a “clear risk” that the UK-supplied weapons might be used to commit serious violations in future.
In accordance with UK and international law, arms exports must not be authorised by the Government if there is a clear risk that the items will be used in a serious violation of international humanitarian law. Since 2015, the Saudi-led coalition and its allies have been responsible for over 8,000 of the approximately 11,700 deaths reported in connection with the direct targeting of civilians in Yemen.
As recently as August 2018, a UN Group of Experts in Yemen reported that it had reasonable grounds to believe that the parties to the Yemen conflict, including Saudi Arabia, have committed a substantial number of violations of international humanitarian law, including war crimes, and that these violations are continuing. Crucially, the Group of Experts noted that the majority of civilian casualties have been caused by the Saudi-led coalition’s air strikes, with targets including hospitals and vehicles carrying school children. To date, reported fatalities as a result of the crisis in Yemen total 92,620, including deaths from famine and disease.
This judgment overturned the ruling of the Divisional Court of July 2017 that dismissed the challenge brought by the Campaign Against the Arms Trade (CAAT). Rights Watch (UK), along with Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch intervened in the appeal and made clear that on the facts of the present case there can be no doubt that the necessary evidential threshold is met, and there is a clear risk of serious violations of international humanitarian law.
Yasmine Ahmed, Executive Director of Rights Watch (UK) said:
“This judgment is a victory for the innocent civilians of Yemen who are being subjected to unimaginable horrors. Today the UK Court of Appeal ruled that their voices can no longer be silenced, and that it is no longer tenable for the UK Government to effectively ignore the mounting evidence that the Saudi-led coalition has and continues to perpetrate serious violations of international humanitarian law using UK military equipment.”
“Despite significant and credible evidence of the deliberate or reckless targeting of civilians by the Saudi-led coalition in violation of international humanitarian law, and the undisputed fact that UK military equipment is being used by Saudi Arabia in Yemen, the UK Government refused to stop arms exports to Saudi Arabia. Instead it continued to benefit from a lucrative arrangement that has seen the UK license at least £4.7bn in arms exports to Saudi Arabia since the beginning of the conflict in Yemen.
It is a great shame that it has taken this much time and a Court ruling to force the UK Government to take their arms trade obligations seriously, but the UK now has an opportunity to live up to its claim that it has one of the most robust export licensing regimes in the world. It must finally put human lives before profit and immediately suspend all arms exports to Saudi Arabia that are being used in Yemen.”
For more information please contact firstname.lastname@example.org
Andrew Smith, Campaign Against the Arms Trade at Andrew@caat.org.uk
The intervenors are represented by solicitors Deighton Pierce Glynn, and Counsel Jemima Stratford QC, Nikolaus Grubeck and Anthony Jones.
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