- Foreign Secretary making two day visit to Saudi Arabia
- UK has licensed over £5.3 billion worth of arms to Saudi Arabia since it began bombing Yemen in March 2015
- In June 2019, the Court of Appeal ruled that arms licensed to Saudi-led coalition were unlawful, following a case brought by CAAT
With the Foreign Secretary, Dominic Raab, visiting Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, for talks this week, campaigners have called on him to push for meaningful human rights reforms and to finally end arms sales to the brutal Saudi regime. The Foreign Office has told reporters that Raab will raise the crisis in Yemen, but there is no suggestion that he will stop the ongoing arms sales.
The five year long Saudi-led bombing of Yemen has created the worst humanitarian crisis in the world. It has killed tens of thousands of people and destroyed vital infrastructure across Yemen.
In June 2019, the Court of Appeal ruled that the Government acted unlawfully when it licensed the sale of UK-made arms to Saudi forces for use in Yemen without making an assessment as to whether or not past incidents amounted to breaches of International Humanitarian Law. The Government was ordered not to approve any new licences and to retake the decisions on extant licences in a lawful manner. This ruling did not stop arms from being transferred under extant licences. So far, the Government has not published a timeline for this process.
In the aftermath of the Court ruling, the Government has admitted multiple breaches of the ban of new licences.
Since the bombing of Yemen began in March 2015, the UK has licensed £5.3 billion worth of arms to the Saudi regime, including:
- £2.7 billion worth of ML10 licences (Aircraft, helicopters, drones)
- £2.5 billion worth of ML4 licences (Grenades, bombs, missiles, countermeasures)
In reality the figures are likely to be a great deal higher, with most bombs and missiles being licensed via the opaque and secretive Open Licence system.
Andrew Smith of Campaign Against Arms Trade said:
Dominic Raab has said he will raise the crisis in Yemen, but talk is not enough. It is a crisis that has been fueled and exacerbated by UK arms sales. Neither Raab nor his colleagues can have any moral authority while they continue to arm and support the brutal Saudi dictatorship and its allies. These arms sales are immoral, and, as the Court of Appeal confirmed last year, they are also illegal.
This terrible war has endured for five years, with tens of thousands of people being killed in the brutal bombardment. Despite the appalling humanitarian crisis and the destruction, the Government has shown a total disregard for the people of Yemen. If Raab’s visit is to have any kind of positive impact then he must call for an end to the war and implement an immediate embargo on all arms sales to Saudi Arabia and the wider coalition bombing Yemen.