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High Court rules UK arms sales to Saudi Arabia as “lawful”

Today, July 10th 2017, the High Court rejected claims that the government were acting illegally by not suspending arms sales to Saudi Arabia, who continue to carry out airstrikes across Yemen.

Campaign Against the Arms Trade (CAAT) launched the judicial review of the government’s decision to authorise arms sales to Saudi Arabia despite the significant humanitarian concerns raised by NGOs and the United Nations.

This ruling is a shocking one. After all, Saudi-led airstrikes in Yemen have caused at least 6,792 civilian deaths and injuries since 2015, according to English-language media sources.

AOAV found that 83% of the civilians killed and injured in airstrikes were in populated areas, such as schools, homes, markets and hospitals.

In the first half of 2017, Yemen has already seen 77 airstrikes, causing 559 civilian casualties. At least five of these airstrikes landed on markets and shops, whilst 31 landed on residential areas.

This destruction of civilian infrastructure has contributed significantly to the wider humanitarian emergency with 18.8 million Yemenis now in need of humanitarian assistance, according to UN figures.

Last year, a Human Rights Watch report found that UK weapons have also been found at the sites of unlawful attacks.

The evidence submitted to the Court catalogued hundreds of pages worth of evidence of such airstrikes, “suggesting that the coalition has committed serious breaches of international humanitarian law in the course of its engagement in the Yemen conflict”.

The judges said  that “closed material”, not available to the public for national security reasons, “provides valuable additional support for the conclusion that the decisions taken by the secretary of state not to suspend or cancel arms sales to Saudi Arabia were rational”.

The organisations and individuals involved in the case expressed their disappointment in the verdict.

Iain Overton, Executive Director of AOAV, said: “Our data is clear: Yemeni civilians have been repeatedly killed by Saudi bombs. The UK and other governments should end their unethical supply of weapons to Saudi Arabia.”

The ruling will see the government continue to sell arms to Saudi Arabia, which are likely to continue to devastate civilian lives in Yemen.

AOAV calls upon states to recognise the civilian impact of explosive weapons with wide-area impacts, and to stop using such weapons in populated areas. AOAV encourages all states supplying arms to Saudi Arabia to suspend these sales until proper investigations have been conducted and such attacks cease to occur.