UK government challenged over Saudi arms exports

Posted on: 15/01/2016

A UK campaign group is threatening to challenge the legality of the export of UK arms to Saudi Arabia which, it says, could be used against civilians on behalf of the Gulf state in Yemen.  Acting on behalf of Campaign Against Arms Trade (‘CAAT’), a UK-based organisation working to end international arms trade, law firm Leigh Day has given the UK’s Department of Business Innovation and Skills (‘BIS’) notice to suspend arms licences to Saudi Arabia before it initiates legal action.

In a 19-page letter, the firm condemns the targeting of civilian casualties in Yemen by Saudi forces and the ‘the apparent failure to adhere to the principle of proportionality and to the prohibition on indiscriminate targeting.’

Andrew Smith, a CAAT spokesman, said: ‘UK weapons have been central to a bombing campaign that has killed thousands of people, destroyed vital infrastructure and inflamed tensions in the region.  The UK has been complicit in the destruction by continuing to support air strikes and provide arms, despite strong and increasing evidence that war crimes are being committed.

‘These arms sales should never have been approved in the first place. The Saudi regime has an appalling human rights record and always has done. How many more people will be tortured and killed before the government finally says it will stop arming what is one of the most oppressive regimes in the world?’

The letter before action asks the UK government to confirm within 14 days ‘whether the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation & Skills, Sajid Javid will:


  1. Agree to suspend extant licences for the export of military equipment and technology to Saudi Arabia for possible use in Yemen pending the outcome of a full review as to whether the export of military equipment is compatible with EU arms control legislation.
  2. Agree not to grant further licences for the export of military equipment to Saudi Arabia pending the completion of such a review.
  3. Agree not to grant further licences (and to suspend existing licences) until the government is in possession of sufficiently clear information to enable a proper assessment as to whether such licences can be granted lawfully’


The letter is available in full here:

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