The UK is to resume arms sales to Saudi Arabia despite concerns they could be used against civilians in Yemen, in violation of international humanitarian law. Sales were suspended last year after a legal challenge by campaigners. The review found "isolated incidents" of possible violations but no pattern of non-compliance and "no clear risk" of future serious breaches.
The UN has verified the deaths of at least 7,700 civilians since 2015 and said 60% of these were due to bombing raids by the Saudi-led coalition, whose other members include the United Arab Emirates. Monitoring groups believe the toll is far higher with the Armed Conflict Location and Event Data Project identifying 12,000 civilians killed in direct attacks.
International Trade Secretary Liz Truss said while some of these incidents were assessed as "possible" violations, she said they "occurred at different times, in different circumstances and for different reasons and the conclusion is that these are isolated incidents". She said sales could resume and the "backlog" of individual licences which have accumulated since last June would be cleared subject to them meeting UK and EU criteria.
The Campaign Against the Arms Trade said it was a "morally bankrupt" move. It said the government's decision was "disgraceful".
"The Saudi-led bombardment of Yemen has created the world's worst humanitarian crisis, and the government itself admits that UK-made arms have played a central role on the bombing," CAAT explained. "The evidence shows a clear pattern of heinous and appalling breaches of international humanitarian law by a coalition which has repeatedly targeted civilian gatherings such as weddings, funerals, and market places. The government claims that these are isolated incidents, but how many hundreds of isolated incidents would it take for the government to stop supplying the weaponry?"