Corruption Watch UK is extremely disappointed with today’s High Court ruling that arms sales to Saudi Arabia by the UK government are lawful.
The UK government’s approval of arms sales to Saudi Arabia was challenged by Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT), with supporting submissions made by Amnesty International, Rights Watch UK and Human Rights Watch. CAAT has announced it will appeal the judgment, which we support.
Since the beginning of the conflict in Yemen to March 2017, the UK government has approved 194 export licenses for arms and related equipment worth an estimated £3.3bn.
The judgment flies in the face of considerable evidence from authoritative sources. A UN Panel of Experts investigation concluded that the Saudi-led coalition has committed serious human rights abuses and violations of international humanitarian law, a finding backed by the European Parliament. The UN Panel of Experts discovered ‘systematic’ attacks on civilians by Saudi-led forces. This includes the use of ‘double-tap’ strikes, in which an initial civilian bombing is followed by a second upon the arrival of support and emergency services.
In the UK, a joint-committee Parliamentary report recommended that arms sales to Saudi Arabia be halted until an independent investigation into the claims that human rights abuses were taking place at the hands of Saudi-led forces. The report concluded that it was ‘inevitable that any violations of human rights law by the coalition have involved arms supplied from the UK.’
Over 13,000 civilians are estimated to have died as a result of the war in Yemen, while millions are threatened by displacement and a looming man-made famine.
Andrew Feinstein, Executive Director of Corruption Watch UK and author of Shadow World: Inside the Global Arms Trade, said:
‘With this ruling, the UK government can continue to shamefully supply arms to one of the world’s most undemocratic, brutal and corrupt dictatorships. It is a stain on the UK’s conscience that it continues to support and enable a regime that shows blatant disregard for civilian life. It is imperative that the UK immediately cease arms sales and military assistance to Saudi Arabia and use its diplomatic influence to force the Saudi-led coalition to respect international law.’