A UK court ruling that the government is entitled to continue authorizing arms supplies to Saudi Arabia is a potentially deadly setback to Yemeni civilians, Amnesty International said today.
The High Court in London dismissed a legal challenge from the NGO Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT), which claimed that such arms transfers should not take place because of the clear risk that the weapons supplied would be used to commit serious violations of international humanitarian law in Yemen’s armed conflict.
“This is a deeply disappointing outcome which gives a green light to the UK authorities – and potentially Saudi Arabia’s other arms suppliers – to continue authorizing arms transfers to the Kingdom despite the clear risk they will be used to commit violations,” said James Lynch, Head of Arms Control and Human Rights at Amnesty International.
“Extensive and credible reports, including Amnesty International’s own research on the ground in Yemen, have in our view demonstrated that such weapons have been used to commit serious violations, including war crimes, against civilians in Yemen and that – in light of the clear risk – authorizing further transfers would be counter to the UK’s obligations under international law.
“The verdict is a deadly blow for Yemenis under attack from a Saudi Arabia-led coalition bolstered by UK-manufactured weapons.”
Since the conflict in Yemen began, more than 13,000 civilians have been killed and injured.
All parties to the conflict have committed serious violations, including possible war crimes. Amnesty International and other NGOs and UN bodies have concluded that the Saudi Arabia-led coalition’s pattern of attacks across Yemen raises serious concerns about an apparent disregard for civilian life. A failure to take feasible precautions to spare civilians, as required by international humanitarian law, has led to civilian death and injuries and destruction of civilian homes and infrastructure.
The coalition, which supports the internationally recognized Yemeni government in its conflict against the Huthi armed group and allied forces aligned with former President Ali Abdullah Saleh, has bombed hospitals, mosques, markets and other civilian infrastructure, and frequently carried out disproportionate and indiscriminate attacks that have killed and injured civilians.
“Irrespective of this ruling, the UK and other governments should end their shameless arms supplies to Saudi Arabia. They may amount to lucrative trade deals, but the UK risks aiding and abetting these terrible crimes,” said James Lynch.
Materials revealed in court show that in February 2016 the head of the Export Control Organization recommended to the then business secretary that exports to Saudi Arabia should be suspended.
UK domestic law, EU law, the global Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) to which the UK is a state party, and rules of customary international law require the UK to take steps to ensure that its arms transfers are not used to commit serious violations of international humanitarian law and of human rights law.
Amnesty International and other NGOs including Human Rights Watch and Rights Watch (UK) made submissions to the Court during the judicial review.
According to UN figures, at least seven million Yemeni civilians are on the brink of famine. The country is facing the worst cholera outbreak worldwide with more than 200,000 suspected cases in the last two months. More than 21 million people are in need of some form of humanitarian assistance, and at least three million people have been forced to flee their homes since March 2015.