UK arms sales to Saudi Arabia are lawful, High Court rules

Royal Saudi Air Force Eurofighter EF-2000-Typhoon.

After seeing secret evidence, the High Court has rejected claims that the Government is acting unlawfully by failing to suspend the sale of UK arms to Saudi Arabia.

The case was brought by Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT), which says UK fighter jets and bombs sent to the Gulf state have been used in the conflict in Yemen.

The group attacked the refusal of the Secretary of State for International Trade to suspend export licences for the sale or transfer of arms and military equipment and its decision to continue granting new licences.

CAAT said that more than 10,000 people have been killed since 2015 as a Saudi Arabia-led coalition intervenes in the Yemeni civil war and the Government is guilty of “repeated and serious breaches” of international humanitarian law.

But Lord Justice Burnett and Mr Justice Haddon-Cave, sitting in London, dismissed the campaigners’ application for judicial review, saying the decision to carry on the arms trade was not irrational or unlawful.

The judges agreed that secret evidence, referred to as “closed material”, seen by them but not made public for national security reasons, “provides valuable additional support for the conclusion that the decisions taken by the Secretary of State not to suspend or cancel arms sales to Saudi Arabia were rational”.

CAAT said the fighting has created a humanitarian catastrophe, destroying vital infrastructure and leaving 80 per cent of the population in need of aid.

But the UK has continued to allow sales, with more than £3.3 billion worth of arms having been licensed since the bombing began in March 2015.

The Government argued there is no “clear risk” that UK licensed items might be used to commit a serious violation of humanitarian law.

Lord Justice Burnett and Mr Justice Haddon-Cave were told the Secretary of State for International Trade, who is defending the Government stance, is “relying considerably on sensitive material” the disclosure of which in open court “would be damaging to national security”.

A Government spokesman said: “We welcome this judgment, which underscores the fact that the UK operates one of the most robust export control regimes in the world.

“We will continue to keep our defence exports under careful review to ensure they meet the rigorous standards of the Consolidated EU and National Arms Export Licensing Criteria.”

Original article: The Telegraph.

 

 

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