On Tuesday (31), a British judge opened a new case filed by an NGO against the government for resuming arms sales to Saudi Arabia, a country accused of human rights abuses during its military intervention in Yemen.
The UK was already forced to halt its arms sales to the Saudi regime in 2019 following a case launched by the NGO Campaign Against the Arms Trade (CAAT).
A British court ruled that the executive had not previously assessed whether the Riyadh-led coalition had committed human rights abuses and asked London to review the legality of the sale.
After the review, Boris Johnson’s Conservative government announced that it would resume negotiations, a year later. It was argued at the time that there were no obvious dangers to indicate that the weapons would be used to commit serious violations of international humanitarian law.
CAAT then returned to London’s High Court, which began hearing the new case on Tuesday.
Ben Jaffee, a lawyer for the NGO, argued that a series of bombings against civilians, hospitals and other non-military targets in Yemen should have led London to find a breach of international humanitarian law as opposed to arms sales rules.
However, James Eady, a lawyer for the Ministry of Commerce, promised that, from 2019, there will be “careful and detailed analysis” of events in the region.
“There was no rationality in the way (negotiations) went,” he added.
Saudi Arabia began to intervene militarily in Yemen in 2015. It leads a regional coalition in support of pro-government forces, clashing with Iran-backed Houthi rebels.
The conflict has killed tens of thousands of people and caused the world’s worst humanitarian crisis, according to the United Nations (UN).
According to CAAT, “evidence suggests that British arms have contributed to numerous violations of international humanitarian law in Yemen”.
Emily Apple, a spokeswoman for the organization, told AFP that the government “must not supply weapons to Saudi Arabia. These arms sales are illegal and must be stopped.”
According to an NGO analysis based on government data, the UK has granted arms sales licenses worth at least £7.9bn since the start of Saudi Arabia’s intervention in Yemen.
© Agence France-Presse
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