LONDON: Anti-war campaigners are celebrating a UK court of appeal ruling declaring British arms sale to Saudi Arabia for use in Yemen wars as unlawful.
The court’s ruling is hailed as a potential turning point in the years’ long conflict which has led to a humanitarian crisis in the impoverished country.
The decision in London follows a challenge by the Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT) that accused the UK government of licensing arms sales despite a clear risk their use could breach international humanitarian law.
Though the ruling will not stop the war but it will provide huge boost to efforts to end the conflict which has claimed an estimated 100,000 people since 2016.
Sam Perlo-Freeman, a research coordinator at CAAT, said that the ruling was huge.
“We can see that arms sales for use in Yemen are now being challenged internationally – in the US and Europe – but this from a court in one of Saudi Arabia’s top two arms suppliers takes that to a whole new level.
“It is historic in terms of the government’s approach to export licences being found to be illegal and adds huge momentum to the campaign both in this country and internationally for a halt to arms sales to Saudi Arabia and the Saudi-led coalition.”
Since the Saudi-led coalition began its military intervention in Yemen in 2015, the UK has licensed at least 4.6 billion pounds ($6bn) worth of arms to Saudi forces. Weapons and military support from Britain to Saudi Arabia – that now accounts for 43 percent of London’s arms exports – is crucial to the war effort.
However, public disquiet has grown about Britain’s role with a poll commissioned by CAAT indicating only six percent of people in the country support arms sales to Saudi Arabia.
The UK’s sales have significantly bolstered the Saudi air force’s capability to carry out air attacks in Yemen. The final six Typhoon jet fighters of 72 ordered in 2007 were delivered in 2017. The following year, Riyadh signed a memorandum of intent to buy an additional 48 Typhoons.