As the war in Yemen rages on, with mounting evidence of Saudi war crimes, the UK government has seen fit to resume arms sales to the Kingdom.
Announcing the controversial decision in a written statement, the international trade secretary, Liz Truss, justified the restart of arms sales to the Saudi regime on the grounds that there had only been “isolated incidents” of airstrikes in Yemen that have breached humanitarian law.
Truss’s statement effectively nullifies a ruling by the British judiciary which only last year prohibited the sale of arms that could be used in the conflict in Yemen.
In a landmark ruling in June 2019, the Court of Appeal ruled that the government had acted unlawfully when it licensed the sale of UK-produced arms and weapons systems to Saudi-led forces in Yemen without undertaking a risk assessment of whether past incidents amounted to breaches of international humanitarian law.
Following the Court of Appeal’s decisive intervention, the government promised not to grant any new licenses to export arms or military equipment to Saudi Arabia for possible use in the Yemen conflict.
But Truss is now claiming the government’s pledge after last year’s significant court defeat simply “falls away”.
“The government will now begin the process of clearing the backlog of license applications for Saudi Arabia and its coalition partners that has built up since 20 June last year”, Truss writes.
The government’s apparent hurry to resume arms sales to Saudi Arabia has been roundly condemned by anti-war and arms trade campaigners.
In a statement, the Campaign Against the Arms Trade (CAAT) condemned 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 on the bombing”, said CAAT’s media coordinator Andrew Smith.
The Yemen Conflict, which began in earnest in March 2015, has devastated large swathes of the country and triggered multiple humanitarian disasters, including famine and the internal displacement of millions of people into disease-infested camps and areas.