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Court of Appeal demands review of UK arms sales to Saudi Arabia

AOAV welcomes the decision of the Court of Appeal today, which declared UK arms sales to Saudi Arabia for use in Yemen unlawful.

The decision means that the UK government “must reconsider the matter” but it does not mean that licences to export arms to Saudi Arabia must immediately be suspended.

The UK has licensed at least £4.7bn worth of arms to Saudi Arabia since the start of the civil war in Yemen in March 2015.

Since 2015, Action on Armed Violence (AOAV) has been monitoring the English language news reports on explosive violence in Yemen. In that time, AOAV has recorded over 9,000 civilian casualties (deaths and injuries) from Saudi-led coalition airstrikes in Yemen.

Civilians account for 86% (9,086) of the total casualties (10,572) recorded from Saudi-led coalition airstrikes.

AOAV monitored a 9% increase in civilian harm from Saudi-led coalition airstrikes in Yemen in 2018, compared to the previous year (from 1,393 civilian casualties in 2017 to 1,512 in 2018).

The Saudi-led coalition was responsible for 85% of civilian casualties from the use of explosive weapons in Yemen in 2018.

84% of the civilian casualties from the Saudi-led coalition airstrikes have occurred in populated areas, such as residential areas, schools, hospitals and markets.

The bombardment and destruction of civilian infrastructure has contributed significantly to the wider humanitarian emergency with 22.2 million Yemenis now in need of humanitarian assistance, according to UN figures.

UN sources have also told AOAV, that there have been 44 suicide attacks in Yemen since January 2016. On average, there have been 54 IED attacks recorded every month since January 2018. Much of this goes unreported.

Iain Overton, AOAV’s Executive Director, said: “It is of note that, between 2008 and 2017, arms exports have been granted to 29 of the 30 countries on the UK’s own human rights ‘priority countries list’ (all with the exception of North Korea). This ruling should place far more of the UK’s arms exports under the spotlight.”

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.


For more information, please contact Iain Overton, AOAV’s Executive Director, on +44 (0) 7984 645 145 or at