Friday, May 24, 2024

U.K. government faces High Court challenge of arms sales to Saudi Arabia

(Al Jazeera Media Network) A campaign group has launched a courtroom battle against the United Kingdom’s arms sales to Saudi Arabia, warning the weapons are worsening a major humanitarian disaster in war-torn Yemen.

The United Kingdom’s High Court today (Tuesday) began hearing the case brought forward by the Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT), which says arms exports have contributed to the deaths of thousands of civilians.

The U.K.-based group is challenging the lawfulness of a decision taken by the British government in 2020 to continue supplying weapons to the Saudi-led coalition involved in the nine-year-old conflict in Yemen.

It marks the latest development in a long-running battle over the legality of the exports, which CAAT says have made the U.K. more than $28m billion since the war began.

CAAT won a similar fight in 2019, when Court of Appeal judges said continuing to license military equipment that could be used in the war in Yemen for export was unlawful amid concerns it may have been used to commit war crimes.

The government temporarily halted sales following the ruling. U.K. law does not allow for the export of weapons if there is a “clear risk” they may be used to carry out war crimes.

However, exports resumed in mid-2020 under the order of then-trade minister Liz Truss after a governmental review.

The review concluded that possible violations of international humanitarian law by actors using U.K.-supplied weapons were only “isolated incidents.”

British arms sales to Saudi Arabia have continued in recent years, despite the U.K.’s leading ally, the United States adopting a partial ban on weapons exports to the kingdom because of the war in Yemen.

Meanwhile, campaigners and rights groups have disputed the validity of the governmental review’s findings.

“The ample evidence of laws of war violations by the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen throughout the war make clear that these violations are not simply ‘isolated incidents’ as claimed by the U.K. government,” said Niku Jafarnia, Yemen and Bahrain researcher at Human Rights Watch. “U.K. weapons have been used in some of these violations with total impunity.

“At a time when the U.K. is promoting a rules-based international order, and rightly calling out Russia for serious violations of international law, it needs to apply those same rules to itself and end the sale of weapons to Saudi Arabia.”

The weapons supplied by the U.K. include Paveway guided bombs, and Brimstone and Storm Shadow missiles.

 

https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2023/1/31/uk-govt-facing-high-court-battle-over-arms-sales-to-saudi-arabia

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