Court declares Britain's arms sales to Saudi Arabia unlawful


A court on Thursday declared Britain's licensing of arms sales to Saudi Arabia unlawful, handing a victory to campaigners who argued that the government failed to make a proper assessment of humanitarian concerns.

The Court of Appeal said the government must review the legal process for licensing arms sales to Saudi Arabia, but it did not order a suspension of sales.

It said the Conservative government had made "no concluded assessments of whether the Saudi-led coalition had committed violations of international humanitarian law in the past, during the Yemen conflict and made no attempt to do so."

British law precludes the issue of arms export licences when there is a "clear risk" that weapons could be deployed in "serious violation of international humanitarian law."

Andrew Smith of Campaign Against Arms Trade, which appealed to the court, welcomed the ruling but said "it should never have taken a court case brought by campaigners to force the government to follow its own rules."

"The Saudi Arabian regime is one of the most brutal and repressive in the world, yet, for decades, it has been the largest buyer of UK-made arms," Smith said.

"No matter what atrocities it has inflicted, the Saudi regime has been able to count on the uncritical political and military support of the UK," he added, calling for an immediate suspension of arms sales.

International Trade Secretary Liam Fox told parliament the government plans to appeal the decision and "has always taken its export control obligations very seriously and continues to do so."    (dpa)

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