020 7650 1200

High Court grants permission for legal challenge over UK arms exports to Saudi Arabia

High Court rules that legal challenge against the Government's policy of selling weapons to Saudi Arabia can go ahead

Posted on 30 June 2016

The High Court has today ruled that Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT) can bring a judicial review against the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation & Skills’ decision to continue arms exports to Saudi Arabia.

The arms sales came despite serious allegations and compelling evidence that there is a clear risk Saudi forces might use the equipment to violate international humanitarian law (IHL) in their ongoing bombardment of Yemen.

Rosa Curling, from the human rights team at Leigh Day, who is representing CAAT said: “"Our clients are delighted the court has recognised this important claim must now progress to a full substantive hearing.

“The decision taken by the Secretary of State to continue to grant new licences for the sale of arms to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, is unlawful.

“There is overwhelming evidence that the Saudi led coalition has committed serious breaches of international humanitarian law in Yemen.

“The UK government must ensure it is not allowing weapons from this country to be provided where there is such a clear risk they will be involved in the tragic and horrific events taking place in Yemen."

According to CAAT over 6000 people have been killed in a campaign that has created a humanitarian catastrophe; destroying vital infrastructure and leaving 80% of the population in need of aid. Despite this, the UK has continued to arm the Saudi regime, with over £2.8 billion worth of arms having been licensed since the bombing began last March, including £1.7 billion worth of fighter jet licences and £1.1 billion worth of bombs and missiles.

Andrew Smith of Campaign Against Arms Trade said: “This is a historic decisions and we welcome the fact that arms exports to Saudi Arabia will be given the full scrutiny of a legal review, but they should never have been allowed in the first place. The fact that UK aircraft and bombs are being used against Yemen is a terrible sign of how broken the arms export control system is. For too long government has focused on maximising and promoting arms sales, rather than on the human rights of those they are used against.”

Andrew continued: “The arms export controls do not work, but how can they when the government is actively promoting arms sales and working hand in glove with autocratic regimes like Saudi Arabia? The Saudi Royal Family’s influence is imprinted all over Whitehall’s approach to arms sales and the Middle East. If the government cares for the human rights of those in Saudi Arabia, Yemen or the wider region then it must finally end its support for the Saudi military and its complicity in Saudi state violence.”