UK Arms Sales to Saudi-led Coalition up by Almost 50% Despite Arms Trade Treaty
By Staff - Agencies
The value of UK arms sold to the Saudi-led military coalition increased by 45 per cent over the past five years – despite the introduction of an international treaty to limit the sale of weapons, research has revealed.
Successive British governments had pushed for the Arms Trade Treaty [ATT], which came into force at the end of 2014, to better regulate the global arms trade.
Yet since January 2015, £6.4bn worth of UK arms have been sold to Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and their coalition partners fighting in Yemen, according to Oxfam.
The total compares to £4.4bn worth of UK weapons sales approved to the same eight countries in the five years up to December 2014.
“This rise in arms sales should be a stain on our conscience,” said Ruth Tanner, Oxfam’s head of humanitarian campaigns. “The Yemenis who’ve had to flee their homes, go without food and clean water, and endure outbreaks of disease need an end to this war and a chance to rebuild their lives.”
The Saudi-led coalition has been waging a war in Yemen – in which more than 12,000 civilians are believed to have been killed – for all but three months since the beginning of 2015.
In June 2019, the UK government suspended arms to Saudi Arabia and its partners after the Court of Appeal found it had approved the export of weapons without assessing whether the Saudi-led coalition had broken international law.
Judges found the decision to continue selling arms for use in the Yemeni war was “irrational and therefore unlawful”.
But the government has been given permission to appeal the June 2019 decision. Although no date has yet been set, the case is expected to be heard at the Supreme Court in 2020.
Andrew Smith of Campaign Against Arms Trade [CAAT], the group which brought the case against the Department for International Trade, told The Independent: “The Saudi-led bombing of Yemen has killed tens of thousands of people and created the worst humanitarian crisis in the world, and that did nothing to stop the arms sales.”
“The UK government has played a central and complicit role in supporting and enabling the destruction,” Smith added.
In September 2019, international trade secretary Liz Truss admitted her department had breached the court order banning arms sales to the Saudis. She told the House of Commons a review had unearthed several cases of licenses inadvertently being approved, confessing it was “possible that more cases will come to light”.