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UNITED KINGDOM OF GREAT BRITAIN AND NORTHERN IRELAND: Court ruling over UK arms sales to Saudi Arabia a ‘deadly blow’ to Yemeni civilians

19 Jul 2017
[International Secretariat]
Region: UNITED KINGDOM OF GREAT BRITAIN AND NORTHERN IRELAND
Topic: Arms Trade Treaty

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 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 authorizing further transfers would be counter to the UK’s obligations under international law.

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. 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 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.

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.

10 July 2017
AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL PRESS RELEASE

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