UK licensed £3.3 billion of arms to Saudi during first 12 months of Yemen bombardment

Licences were awarded despite serious accusations that Saudi forces are breaching international humanitarian law.

  • Licences were awarded despite serious accusations that Saudi forces are breaching international humanitarian law
  • Licences include fighter jets and bombs that have been used against Yemen
  • Latest statistics show almost two-thirds of UK arms exports go to the Middle East. Saudi Arabia is by far the largest buyer of UK arms.

Official statistics, compiled by Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT), reveal that the UK government licensed £3.3 billion worth of arms to Saudi Arabia in the first 12 months of the Saudi-led bombing of Yemen.

In Q1 2016, the government licensed £528 million worth of arms, the vast majority of which was a £522 million deal for military training aircraft for the Saudi Air Force. The latest licences were granted despite international opposition and warnings from the UN that Saudi forces were violating international law.

  • 27 January 2016 – UN expert panel accuses Saudi forces of violating international humanitarian law in bombardment of Yemen.
  • 27 January 2016 – Labour Party joined Liberal Democrats and SNP in calling for licences for arms sales to Saudi Arabia to be suspended.
  • 03 February 2016 – Cross-party committee on International Development called for a suspension of arms sales to Saudi Arabia.
  • 25 February 2016 – European Parliament voted overwhelmingly to support a European-wide arms embargo against Saudi Arabia.

Andrew Smith of Campaign Against Arms Trade said:

The UN has accused Saudi Arabian forces of violating international humanitarian law, the European Parliament has calling for an arms embargo, but, as usual when it comes to Saudi Arabia, the UK government has focused on arms sales.

The weapon categories included for arms exports since the bombing of Yemen began include approximately:

  • £2.2 billion worth of ML10 licences (Aircraft, helicopters, drones)
  • £1.1 billion worth of ML4 licences (Grenades, bombs, missiles, countermeasures)
  • £430,000 worth of ML6 licences (Armoured vehicles, tanks)

Over 6000 people have been killed in the Saudi-led bombing campaign; destroying vital infrastructure and leaving 80% of the population in need of aid.

Andrew continued:

UK arms have been central to the humanitarian crisis that has been unleashed on Yemen. If the new Prime Minister wants to help the people of Yemen then she needs to break with the past, stop the arms sales and end the uncritical support for the Saudi regime.

A recent investigation by the Times revealed that UK licensed ammunition was used against an unarmed man in police raids earlier this year. The government has refused to investigate if UK arms are being used for internal repression.

UK arms sales to Saudi Arabia are currently subject to a judicial review, following an application by CAAT. The claim calls on the government to suspend all extant licences and stop issuing further arms export licences to Saudi Arabia for use in Yemen while he holds a full review into if the exports are compatible with UK and EU legislation. A three day review will take place in front of two judges no later than 01 February 2017.


For further information please contact Andrew at media(at)caat·org·uk or call 020 7281 0297 or 07990 673232.

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