April 08, 2019Arms Sales International Security and Rule of Law
Rights Watch (UK), along with Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, is intervening in an appeal against a 2017 High Court ruling that gave the UK Government the green light to continue to licence the sale of arms to Saudi Arabia, which are being used with devastating effect in the war in Yemen. The case and appeal have been brought by Campaign Against the Arms Trade.
Our intervention addresses the weight that should be given to NGO, UN and other third-party evidence in making a determination as to whether there have been serious violations of international humanitarian law in Yemen, and the evidential threshold necessary to satisfy the ‘clear risk’ in criterion 2 (c) of the Consolidated EU and National Arms Export Licensing Criteria.
Since the High Court decision in July 2017, the conflict has intensified, and the number of Yemeni civilians killed, including women and children, has risen. In August 2018, the UN Group of Independent Eminent International and Regional 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.
Since 2016 alone, it is estimated that the number of civilian deaths caused by the Saudi led coalition totals over 4,700, and more than 67,000 people have died as a result of the conflict, including of disease and starvation. A staggering 10 million Yemenis are currently suffering from food insecurity, many of whom are children.
The UK Government continues to claim that on a forward-looking analysis, there is no ‘clear risk’ that military equipment that is exported from the UK ‘might’ be used by Saudi Arabia to commit serious violations of the international humanitarian law in Yemen. This is in spite of the mounting evidence that the Saudi led coalition has and continues to perpetrate serious violations of international humanitarian law, and the undisputed fact that UK military equipment is being used by Saudi Arabia in Yemen.
Yasmine Ahmed, Director of Rights Watch (UK) notes:
“Despite mounting evidence that the Saudi led coalition has and continues to perpetrate serious violations of international humanitarian law, and the undisputed fact that UK military equipment is being used by Saudi Arabia in Yemen, the UK Government refuses to stop arms exports to Saudi Arabia. Instead it continues 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.
Rights Watch (UK), Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International are 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.
It is time for the UK Government to heed pleas from the UN, European Parliament and the UK Parliament, and to step into line with a number of European states who have either suspended or restricted arms exports to Saudi Arabia, or have announced that they will be doing so.
The war has, and continues to be, devastating for Yemen. The UK Government must put human life before profit, and consider the longer term humanitarian and security implications of sustaining and perpetuating a devastating conflict.
This landmark case will not only have significant implications for the lives of innocent civilians in Yemen but for many of those in war torn countries globally. It will have an important bearing on the vigilance, caution and robustness required when the UK Government assesses whether to sell arms to other states involved in war or hostilities, both now and in the future.”
The Court of Appeal hearing runs from 9 – 11 April 2019. The intervenors have instructed solicitors Deighton Peirce Glynn, and Counsel Jemima Stratford QC, Nikolaus Grubeck and Anthony Jones.
For more information please contact firstname.lastname@example.org
Andrew Smith, Campaign Against the Arms Trade at Andrew@caat.org.uk
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