Jeremy Corbyn leads praise for anti-arms victory as UK sales to Saudi Arabia declared ‘unlawful’

Young child looking out over bombed landscape in Yemen
Fréa Lockley

Campaigners have won a landmark legal challenge against the UK government over its arms sales to Saudi Arabia. Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT) argued that continued licences of military equipment used in Yemen were unlawful. In a historic judgment, the Court of Appeal ruled that the UK government “must now stop issuing new arms exports licences”. Jeremy Corbyn and many others welcomed this victory.

“A moral stain on our country”

As The Canary reported, between 9 and 11 April, the UK government faced a judicial review over its continuing export of arms to Saudi Arabia. It investigated whether the UK was supporting ‘serious violations of international humanitarian law’ because these arms have been used by Saudi Arabia in its ongoing war on Yemen.

As CAAT reported:

The Court of Appeal concluded that it was ‘irrational and therefore unlawful’ for the Secretary of State for International Trade to have granted licences without making any assessment as to whether violations of international humanitarian law had taken place.

Jeremy Corbyn welcomed the decision, calling UK arms supplies to Saudi Arabia “a moral stain on our country”:

Corbyn has also opposed UK arms sales to Saudi Arabia for many years:

“Specialist knowledge”

The court also gave permission for Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, and Rights Watch (UK) to “use their specialist knowledge” in the case.

Rasha Abdul-Rahim from Amnesty called the ruling a “hugely significant outcome for Yemeni civilians”. She also explained that the decision could have implications for countries like the US and France which still sell arms to Saudi Arabia:

CAAT reported that Oxfam intervened separately too. Following the ruling, Oxfam’s Martin Butcher explained:

Oxfam began campaigning for the Arms Trade Treaty in 2001 because we wanted to see people put before profits… This is the first legal test of that treaty… [it] means that the British government has to stop selling weapons immediately and look at all the old licences that have been granted to sell weapons

“Uncritical political and military support of the UK” must stop

This is a significant victory. But CAAT also noted that that the UK government broke “its own rules on arms sales”:

Andrew Smith from CAAT said:

The Saudi Arabian regime is one of the most brutal and repressive in the world, yet, for decades, it has been the largest buyer of UK-made arms. No matter what atrocities it has inflicted, the Saudi regime has been able to count on the uncritical political and military support of the UK.

The ruling highlights the role of the UK’s foreign secretary in these ongoing arms sales:

The UK government has also faced accusations of complicity in the “mass killing of civilians”:

As Smith also said:

The bombing has created the worst humanitarian crisis in the world. UK arms companies have profited every step of the way. The arms sales must stop immediately.

This isn’t the end

CAAT suspected that the “government is likely to continue to fight this decision, even now”. And news soon emerged that the government will seek to appeal.

So it’s vital that we keep on the pressure to ensure our government “finally” prioritises “human lives over arms trade profits”. This victory is too important to give up. We must stand in solidarity to support every innocent child, woman, and man suffering in Yemen.

Featured image via Felton Davis/Flickr

We need your help ...

The coronavirus pandemic is changing our world, fast. And we will do all we can to keep bringing you news and analysis throughout. But we are worried about maintaining enough income to pay our staff and minimal overheads.

Now, more than ever, we need a vibrant, independent media that holds the government to account and calls it out when it puts vested economic interests above human lives. We need a media that shows solidarity with the people most affected by the crisis – and one that can help to build a world based on collaboration and compassion.

We have been fighting against an establishment that is trying to shut us down. And like most independent media, we don’t have the deep pockets of investors to call on to bail us out.

Can you help by chipping in a few pounds each month?

The Canary Support us
  • Show Comments
    1. shame this has come too late to affect the Saudis criminal war in Yemen. It is a step in the right direction for absolutely a right thing to do, however the promise of a nighthood or a seat in the house of lords should sort it out for the warhawks in uk government after all we cant have lives before profit can we.

    Leave a Reply

    Join the conversation

    Please read our comment moderation policy here.