The United Kingdom will resume weapons sales to Saudi Arabia, despite evidence of “possible” war crimes in Yemen.
On July 07, 2020, International Trade Secretary Liz Truss told Parliament that a government assessment suggested, “There is not a clear risk that the export of arms and military equipment to Saudi Arabia might be used in the commission of a serious violation of [international humanitarian law – IHL]”.
Weapons exports were stopped in June 2019 after the Court of Appeal ordered the government to clarify how it assesses whether their use in Yemen’s civil war breaches IHL.
The conflict has claimed tens of thousands of lives and triggered what the United Nations has described as the world’s worst existing humanitarian crisis.
Opposition legislators and campaigners against the arms trade slammed the “morally indefensible” decision by Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s Conservative government.
The move followed a court ruling last year that the UK’s licensing of arms sales to Saudi Arabia was unlawful after campaigners argued the government had failed to make a proper assessment of humanitarian risks.
While the court’s decision did not mean the UK had to halt arms exports to Saudi Arabia, it did mean it had to pause the granting of new export licenses to sell arms to the kingdom – the UK’s biggest weapons purchaser.
In a statement, the Campaign Against the Arms Trade (CAAT) slammed the decision as “morally bankrupt”.
“The Saudi-led bombardment of Yemen has created the world’s worst humanitarian crisis, and the government itself admits that UK-made arms may have played a central role in the bombing,” said CAAT’s Andrew Smith.
“We will be considering this new decision with our lawyers, and will be exploring all options available to challenge it.”
Benjamin Ward, UK Director at Human Rights Watch, also condemned the move. “To justify its cynical resumption of arms sales to Saudi Arabia the UK government claims that abuses by the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen are ‘isolated incidents.’” he said in a statement. “The truth is that the coalition in Yemen has repeatedly struck homes, schools, markets, weddings, and funerals with utter contempt for civilian life.”
The UK has licensed at least £5.3bn worth of arms to Saudi Arabia since the beginning of the conflict in March 2015.
UNICEF said in June that millions of children in Yemen were facing starvation due to a lack of aid for the country.
The war has devastated the country’s health system and displaced 3.3 million people into disease-infested displacement camps.
This article was edited using the data from the Aljazeera.com, www.middleeasteye.net, and www.al-monitor.com