Activists outside High Court with Stop Arming Saudi Arabia banner

Arms sales back on trial

CAAT's legal challenge over the supply of UK weapons for the war in Yemen will now proceed to the High Court.

Good news just in! We’re going back to Court to challenge the government over the supply of UK weapons for the war in Yemen.

CAAT’s legal challenge will now proceed to the High Court. Thank you to everyone who has helped to make this happen.

UK complicity in Yemen war

The UK has supplied billions of pounds worth of fighter jets, bombs and missiles to the Saudi-led coalition for use in Yemen. At least 8,759 civilians have been killed in attacks by the coalition, which has targeted homes and farms, schools and hospitals, weddings and funerals.

Arms sales in these circumstances are prohibited by UK rules, which say they should not be allowed where there is a “clear risk” that a weapon “might” be used in a serious violation of International Humanitarian Law.

Yet the UK government continues to promote and protect weapons sales, despite the devastating human cost.

  • The UK has licensed more than £6.8 billion of arms sales to Saudi Arabia since the bombing began – but the real level of exports is a great deal higher than the published figures.
  • The UK’s biggest arms company, BAE Systems, has made £17.5 billion in revenue from services and sales to Saudi Arabia since 2015.

We are determined to put a stop to such sales once and for all.

In 2019, legal action by CAAT forced the government to stop issuing export licences for weapons that could be used in the war in Yemen. In a landmark decision, the government was ordered to retake all its previous decisions in a lawful manner.

But in July 2020 the government resumed arms sales, claiming any violations of international humanitarian law were only ‘isolated incidents’. Since then it has licensed more than £1.6 billion additional weapons sales in support of the war.

CAAT’s new case argues that the government’s conclusions that there were only a “small number” of violations of IHL committed by coalition forces, and that these did not form a “pattern”, are irrational, flying in the face of the weight of evidence to the contrary. CAAT further argues that even “isolated incidents” of violations could still involve a clear risk of further violations.

The UK government refuses to act, but our challenge can force change.

Judges will now consider whether the government’s decision to resume arms sales is lawful. We hope the case will be heard this year.

This new ruling is an important step forward, increasing the pressure for the UK government to finally end the arms sales fuelling the war in Yemen crisis.

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Bonyan Jamal, Accountability Officer at Mwatana for Human Rights, said

“It’s been a very long seven years of war in Yemen, and it’s shameful the UK has kept selling arms to Saudi Arabia and the UAE, putting UK profits over Yemeni lives. We’re intervening in this case because Mwatana has been documenting Saudi and UAE violations in Yemen for years and, if the UK government won’t take a principled approach to weapons sales, we’re hoping the British legal system will.”

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