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Campaigners condemn 'morally bankrupt' arms sales to Saudi Arabia

  • Theresa Alessandro

Source: Pax Christi , CAAT

Last summer the Campaign Against The Arms Trade group won an important legal victory when the Court of Appeal ruled that the UK's arms sales to Saudi Arabia, potentially for use in Yemen, were 'irrational and therefore unlawful'. Government-issued licences for the sale of arms to Saudi Arabia were to be suspended.

There have been powerful actions by dockworkers in Italy and elsewhere in Europe who during the last year have refused to load equipment onto Saudi Arabian cargo ships suspected of involvement in transporting arms for use in Yemen.

Last month CAFOD described the situation in Yemen as ' the world's largest humanitarian crisis'. A UNICEF report last month stated: 'Millions of children in Yemen could be pushed to the brink of starvation due to huge shortfalls in humanitarian aid funding amid the COVID-19 pandemic.'

Meanwhile today here in the UK, Liz Truss, Secretary of State for International Trade, in a written statement explained that apart from some 'isolated incidents', she has 'assessed that 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.' And so, 'The Government will now begin the process of clearing the backlog of licence applications for Saudi Arabia and its coalition partners that has built up since 20 June last year.' In other words, UK arms sales to Saudi Arabia potentially for use in Yemen, are back on.

In Pope Francis' message for this year's World Day of the Poor he says: "Some hands are outstretched to accumulate money by the sale of weapons that others… use to sow death and poverty… Others still, parading a sham respectability, lay down laws which they themselves do not observe."

Theresa Alessandro, director of Pax Christi, said: "We believe in peace, based on justice. We work for a world where human rights are respected, basic needs are met, people feel safe and valued in their communities and we care for our common home. We believe in nonviolence which is a way of living and making choices that respects others and offers alternatives to violence and war.

Decision-making which reflects a narrow focus on securing the profits from arms sales to Saudi Arabia, regardless of the unspeakable consequences for those on whom the weapons may be used, is out of step with current calls to put people at the centre in the shared future for all of humanity."

Andrew Smith of Campaign Against Arms Trade said: "This is a disgraceful and morally bankrupt decision. The Saudi-led bombardment of Yemen has created the world's worst humanitarian crisis, and the government itself admits that UK-made have played a central role on the bombing. We will be considering this new decision with our lawyers, and will be exploring all options available to challenge it.

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?

This exposes the rank hypocrisy at the heart of UK foreign policy. Only yesterday the government was talking about the need to sanction human rights abusers, but now it has shown that it will do everything it can to continue arming and supporting one of the most brutal dictatorships in the world."

Rosa Curling of Leigh Day Solicitors said: "Our client welcomes the Secretary of State's decision to finally accept the judgement handed down by the Court of Appeal and to agree that any decision concerning licence applications must include an assessment of whether IHL breaches have occurred.

But CAAT is also deeply alarmed by the decision that, despite her new procedure, the Secretary of State has decided licences can continue to be granted and that there is no clear risk the Saudi led coalition in Yemen might use such licensed, military equipment in breach of IHL. My client's view is the evidence remains overwhelming that such a risk does in fact exist. We are considering her decision carefully with our client."


Pax Christi:

Campaign Against the Arms Trade -


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