High Court backs British arms sales to Saudi Arabia

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Jul 11, 2017
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King Salman’s government has already discussed controversial incidents in the war in Yemen with officials in Theresa May’s government, the judges noted

Stefan Rousseau/Reuters

Britain can continue selling arms to Saudi Arabia after High Court judges ruled yesterday that the Gulf country was not deliberately targeting civilians in its war in Yemen.

In a disappointing ruling for campaigners, the court found that the Saudi leadership had not broken international law. The judges said that the country had processes and procedures that respected international humanitarian law.

The court also noted that the Saudi-led coalition that is fighting a predominantly Shia insurgency in Yemen was investigating controversial incidents on the battlefield, including those involving civilian casualties. The judges also said that the Saudi authorities had discussed issues around its processes and incidents of concern in Yemen constructively with British officials. Overall, the court said, Saudi Arabia had been committed to complying with international humanitarian law.

Lawyers for the Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT), the body that brought the action, indicated that they would appeal.

After the High Court ruling, Rosa Curling, a lawyer with London law firm Leigh Day, which is acting for the campaign, insisted: “The law is clear: where there is a clear risk UK arms might be used in the commission of serious violations of international law, arm sales cannot go ahead. Nothing in the open evidence presented by the UK government to the court, suggests this risk does not exist in relation to arms to Saudi Arabia. Indeed, all the evidence we have seen from Yemen suggests the opposite: the risk is very real. You need only look at the devastating reality of the situation there.

“We hope very much the Court of Appeal will consider CAAT’s claim as a matter of priority. Our government should not be allowing itself to be complicit in the grave violations of law taking place by the Saudi coalition in Yemen.”

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