Alwaght- The UK has suspended arms sales to Saudi Arabia over concerns that they might be used in the West-backed kingdom's bloody aggression on Yemen.
The UK's Court of Appeal in London ruled on Thursday that the government had to assess whether the Saudi regime violated international human rights law in its military campaign in Yemen before ministers approve further arms sales to the oil-rich kingdom
Saudi Arabia and a number of its regional allies launched a devastating campaign against Yemen in March 2015, with the goal of bringing the government of former President Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi back to power and crushing the Ansarullah movement.
According to a report by The Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project, the brutal aggression has killed over 100,000 people and also taken a heavy toll on the country’s infrastructure, destroying hospitals, schools, and factories. The UN has said that a record 22.2 million Yemenis are in dire need of food, including 8.4 million threatened by severe hunger. According to the world body, Yemen is suffering from the most severe famine in more than 100 years.
The British court's decision could have repercussions for BAE Systems, the UK’s largest defense contractor, and particularly the planned export of 48 Eurofighter Typhoon jets worth £5bn to Saudi Arabia. Riyadh represents about 15 per cent of BAE’s annual group earnings and is responsible for its biggest single export contract.
Three judges on Thursday dismissed an earlier court ruling over the lawfulness of the government’s decision not to suspend export licenses to Riyadh. Announcing the ruling, Terence Etherton said the court had concluded that the government’s decision-making process was “unlawful” and “irrational".
This was because the UK government had made no “concluded assessments” over whether the Saudi-led coalition fighting in Yemen had committed historic violations of international humanitarian law in the past during the conflict and had made no attempt to do such an assessment.
However, Sir Terence said: “The decision of the court today does not mean that licenses to export arms to Saudi Arabia must immediately be suspended.” He added that it did mean the UK government must reconsider its policies and assessments.
Liam Fox, international trade secretary, said in the House of Commons that while the government considers the implications of the ruling on its decision making “we will not grant any new licenses for export to Saudi Arabia and its coalition partners which might be used in the conflict in Yemen".
The Department for International Trade said it disagreed with the judgment and would seek permission to appeal.
The judicial review was brought by the Campaign Against Arms Trade, a non-governmental organization, which challenged the British government’s decision to continue to license the export of military equipment to Saudi Arabia. It claimed that the UK was in breach of rules prohibiting the supply of arms in cases where there is a “clear risk” they could be used in violation of international human rights law.
The case follows allegations that Saudi forces might have used UK arms in serious violations of international humanitarian law during the coalition’s bombardment of Yemen, which began in 2015.