Court victory for campaigners over UK arms sales to Saudi Arabia

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Campaigners have won a landmark legal challenge against the Government over UK arms sales to Saudi Arabia.

Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT) argued that the decision to continue to license military equipment for export to the Gulf state, which is leading a coalition of forces in the Yemeni conflict, was unlawful.

The group said export licences should not have been granted as there was a clear risk that the arms might be used in a serious violation of international humanitarian law.

Protesters celebrate outside the court
Protesters celebrate outside the court (Kirsty O’Connor/PA)

Giving judgment in London on Thursday, the Court of Appeal ruled that “the process of decision-making by the Government was wrong in law in one significant respect”.

Announcing the court’s decision, Master of the Rolls Sir Terence Etherton, sitting with Lord Justice Irwin and Lord Justice Singh, said the Government “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”.

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Sir Terence added: “The decision of the court today does not mean that licences to export arms to Saudi Arabia must immediately be suspended.”

He said the Government “must reconsider the matter” and estimate any future risks in light of their conclusions about the past.

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