Damning new evidence is yet another reason why selling arms to Saudi Arabia is illegal

Bombed residential areas in Khor Maksar Yemen
Support us and go ad-free

New evidence that shows the Saudi-led coalition is breaking humanitarian law in Yemen has been published by the Global Legal Action Network (GLAN) and Mwatana for Human Rights (Mwatana). Its research shows that the coalition:

has continued to carry out apparently unlawful attacks throughout the course of the conflict, failed to credibly investigate, and whitewashed significant civilian harm.

Arms sales to the Saudi regime are on hold after the Court of Appeal ruled they were “irrational and therefore unlawful”. The government, however, is appealing the decision. But this new evidence shows why arms sales are unlawful and should remain illegal.

“Indiscriminate or disproportionate attacks”

The evidence from GLAN and Mwatana asserts that:

Coalition forces have committed serious violations of international humanitarian law, and have failed to take adequate steps to ensure violations stop.

The evidence includes photographs and witness statements that directly contradict assurances from the coalition that such actions are not happening:

The submission details multiple airstrikes which the Coalition denies all responsibility for – claims that are directly contradicted by witness and photographic evidence.

Read on...

Support us and go ad-free

It also states that the coalition:

fail[ed] to acknowledge civilian harm caused by its attacks despite readily available evidence, as well as apparently indiscriminate or disproportionate attacks on civilians and civilian objects.


The UN has long described the humanitarian crisis in Yemen as the “worst in the world”. Its report in February highlighted that:

14.3 million people are classified as being in acute need, with around 3.2 million requiring treatment for acute malnutrition; that includes two million children under-five, and more than one million pregnant and lactating women.

According to The Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project, 91,600 people have been killed in the war with 11,700 reported civilian deaths. Including deaths from hunger, illness and lack of access to health services, the UN predicts the total number of deaths could reach 233,000 by the end of the year.

Arms sales

The UK has played a central role in arming the Saudi regime. The government doesn’t give “exact figures”, but a House of Commons briefing paper states that:

the UK was the second largest exporter of arms transfers to Saudi Arabia (after the US) between 2010 and 2018, and larger than all other countries combined.

And that:

Between 2010 and 2018 Saudi Arabia was the largest importer of arms from the UK; the total volume of arms transfers was around 43% of the UK’s total arms export volume.

But as the briefing paper sets out, Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT) is clear that:

£4.6bn worth of arms licensed for Saudi Arabia since March 2015, £2.7 billion worth were ML10 licenses (aircraft, helicopters, drones) and £1.9 billion were ML4 licenses (grenades, bombs, missiles, countermeasures).

Andrew Smith from CAAT told The Canary:

The Saudi-led bombardment of Yemen would not have been possible without UK-made weapons. It has created a humanitarian crisis for Yemen, but for the arms companies it has been a major business opportunity.

“Decimating Yemen, with indiscriminate and disproportionate airstrikes”

Chair of Mwatana Radhya Al-Mutawakel said the coalition is:

decimating Yemen, with indiscriminate and disproportionate airstrikes destroying the country’s infrastructure without regard for civilians.

Al-Mutawakel also highlighted that:

The UK should have stopped selling weapons to the Saudi/UAE-led coalition a long time ago. We hope this evidence helps them finally make the right decision, and to start seriously pushing for peace.

What is happening in Yemen is a humanitarian crisis – one that has been aided and abetted by UK arms sales. As distressing as this new evidence is, hopefully it’ll be the final straw in putting an end to these sales for good.

Featured image via YouTube/IOM – UN Migration

Support us and go ad-free

Get involved

  • Stop the Arms Fair is organising protests from 2 September against DSEI – one of the world’s biggest arms fairs.
  • Support CAAT.

We need your help to keep speaking the truth

Every story that you have come to us with; each injustice you have asked us to investigate; every campaign we have fought; each of your unheard voices we amplified; we do this for you. We are making a difference on your behalf.

Our fight is your fight. You’ve supported our collective struggle every time you gave us a like; and every time you shared our work across social media. Now we need you to support us with a monthly donation.

We have published nearly 2,000 articles and over 50 films in 2021. And we want to do this and more in 2022 but we don’t have enough money to go on at this pace. So, if you value our work and want us to continue then please join us and be part of The Canary family.

In return, you get:

* Advert free reading experience
* Quarterly group video call with the Editor-in-Chief
* Behind the scenes monthly e-newsletter
* 20% discount in our shop

Almost all of our spending goes to the people who make The Canary’s content. So your contribution directly supports our writers and enables us to continue to do what we do: speaking truth, powered by you. We have weathered many attempts to shut us down and silence our vital opposition to an increasingly fascist government and right-wing mainstream media.

With your help we can continue:

* Holding political and state power to account
* Advocating for the people the system marginalises
* Being a media outlet that upholds the highest standards
* Campaigning on the issues others won’t
* Putting your lives central to everything we do

We are a drop of truth in an ocean of deceit. But we can’t do this without your support. So please, can you help us continue the fight?

The Canary Support us