Legal action begins over UK government’s arms sales to Saudi Arabia

CAAT's second Judicial Review case against the government over arms sales to Saudi Arabia begins on Tuesday 31st January.

  • On 31st January 2023, Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT) is taking the UK government to court over its licensing of arms sales to Saudi Arabia for use in its war with Yemen. This includes Typhoon and Tornado aircrafts and bombs such as the Paveway IV.

  • Since the start of the war with Yemen in 2015, the UK government has licensed over £23bn worth of arms to the Saudi regime. There have been 8,983 civilian deaths with airstrikes hitting hospitals, funerals, weddings and residential homes.

  • The Judicial Review is taking place at the High Court and is expected to last until 2nd February. Spokespeople will be available for interview outside the court from 9am on the 31st with a photograph opportunity with campaigners at 9:30am.

CAAT is arguing that UK arms have contributed to breaches of International Humanitarian Law (IHL) and one of the world’s worst humanitarian disasters.

In 2019, CAAT won its case against the government with the Court of Appeal finding that the arms sales were “irrational and therefore unlawful”. However, then secretary of state Liz Truss conducted a review and decided to resume sales on the basis that any breaches of IHL were “isolated incidents”.

CAAT’s Media Coordinator Emily Apple stated:

This is a government that cares more about profit than war crimes and the deaths of civilians. Its argument that these are ‘isolated incidents’ is total nonsense and deeply offensive to all the Yemeni people who’ve had their lives destroyed by UK weapons. We are bringing this case in solidarity with all the Yemeni people whose lives have been devastated by the UK arms trade.

Given the Court of Appeal’s previous ruling, we should not have to be in court again. But it’s clear that Liz Truss thought she could pay lipservice to reviewing these sales by conjuring a loophole that, given the evidence, is nothing but a flimsy pretence to continue lining the pockets of arms dealers at the expense of people’s lives.

A spokesperson for Mwatana for Human Rights who have intervened in the case stated:

After a series of letters to the UK responsible bodies and as the first hearing before the British Judiciary, we are optimistic that finally civilians in Yemen could reach a kind of justice after a long period of suffering of war. We were careful in our intervention to build our submission on different -but not all- patterns of violations committed in Yemen to show how civilians are the only affected target of this war. We hope that the British judiciary will take that seriously.

Martin Butcher, Oxfam’s Peace and Conflict Advisor, and author of Fueling Conflict, a new Oxfam report that examines the human impact of arms sales in Yemen, said:

In the war in Yemen, devastating attacks on civilians have been commonplace, leading to death and injury, and forcing millions of people to flee their homes. While all parties to the conflict have repeatedly harmed civilians, we know that the airstrikes are responsible for a large proportion of the attacks. That’s why it’s essential that the legality of UK arms sales is examined and arms sales must be immediately stopped.

Notes for Editors

1. More information about the Judicial Review – CAAT – CAAT’s legal challenge

2. More information about Mwatana for Human Rights – Mwatana for Human Rights

3. UK arms companies provide the Royal Saudi air force Typhoon and Tornado aircrafts and bombs such as the Paveway IV. Value of UK arms trade to Saudi –

4. For more information on the recent situation in Yemen see Oxfam’s report, Fueling Conflict: Analyzing the human impact of the war in Yemen – Fueling Conflict: Analyzing the human impact of the war in Yemen ( i

5. Number of civilian deaths –

6. CAAT is represented by Leigh Day in these proceedings.

7. For further information, please contact:

Emily Apple – [email protected], 07495 659777

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