UK suspends new arms export licences to Saudi-led coalition

UK Court of Appeal ruled last week that arms sales to Saudi Arabia and its allies fighting in Yemen were unlawful.

Campaigners celebrate the court of appeal's ruling last week [Simon Dawson/Reuters]
Campaigners celebrate the court of appeal's ruling last week [Simon Dawson/Reuters]

The UK government has said it will not grant any new licences for weapons exports to Saudi Arabia or its coalition partners fighting in Yemen after a court ruled last week that such sales were unlawful.

Britain’s Department for International Trade issued a formal notice on Tuesday saying it would abide by the ruling made by the Court of Appeal, but that it would also appeal the judgment.

“While we do this, we will not grant any new licences for exports to Saudi Arabia and its coalition partners (UAE, Kuwait, Bahrain and Egypt) which might be used in the conflict in Yemen,” read a statement from the department. 

“Extant licences – those granted before this judgment – are not immediately affected by the Court Order. Exporters may continue to export under extant licences. But we are required by the court to reconsider the decisions we made about those licences.”

The court ruled on Thursday that the process by which arms export licences had been issued was unlawful, in what was heralded as a landmark decision by campaigners.

‘Historic’ UK decision outlaws arms sales for Saudi war on Yemen

The decision followed a challenge by the Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT) that accused the UK government of licensing arms sales despite a clear risk their use could breach international humanitarian law.

The UK’s arms sales have significantly bolstered the Saudi-led coalition’s capability to carry out air attacks in Yemen. The final six Typhoon jet fighters of 72 ordered in 2007 were delivered in 2017. The following year, Riyadh signed a memorandum of intent to buy an additional 48 Typhoons from the UK.

CAAT has argued for three years that the sales break UK laws, which block export licences if there is a clear risk of weapons being used in “serious violations” of international humanitarian law.

Source: Al Jazeera

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