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New report. 'Domestic accountability for international arms transfers: Law, policy and practice'

A new report published by GLAN, Saferworld and the International Commission of Jurists looks at ten separate legal challenges to stop the governments of the UK, US, France, Canada, Italy, Spain, Belgium, the Netherlands and South Africa from continuing to supply tens of billions of dollars’ worth of arms to parties to the conflict in Yemen.

The report is the eight of the ATT Expert Group series critically examines these legal challenges to stop governments and corporations arming the Yemen war, in the longest and most concerted surge of transnational litigation based on the Arms Trade Treaty which outlaws selling arms at risk of being used to commit serious violations of international humanitarian or human rights law. The report investigates what these legal challenges against the involvement of a number of leading arms exporters in arming parties to the Yemen conflict, means for the state of the international and national law on arms export control.

With the exception of the US all of the proceedings concern ATT State Parties and their domiciled corporations who have all supplied tens of billions of dollars worth of arms for use in Yemen since 2015.

Report launch event: See you in court! Yemen-linked arms export litigation and its implications for the ATT

The UN Group of Eminent Experts has repeatedly called into question the legality of such sales and encouraged all states to bring them to an end. Supplying arms in this context raises questions around complicity in the commission of such acts. Many countries have limited or stopped arms sales at risk of use in Yemen, including Austria, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Ireland, Netherlands, Norway, Sweden and Switzerland.

Legal practitioners and NGOs across multiple jurisdictions have been increasing the pressure on governments to put an end to the arms sales through domestic legal challenges.

These challenges have faced multiple serious procedural and substantive obstacles in accessing effective judicial oversight. These include Courts requiring information about the issuance and scope of licenses that governments withhold from potential claimants; NGOs being denied standing on behalf of victims; protracted proceedings; bar to or limited scope of review of licensing decisions due to their political nature and implications.

Access to judicial oversight is critical to ensuring the effective implementation of the ATT. The significant obstacles to access to judicial review also obstruct access to justice for victims. The significant contribution made by established arms supply relations with parties to the Yemen conflict has made a certain contribution to conditions and causes of the prolongation of the conflict. The need to secure international scrutiny of the legality of sales and enforcement action by courts and international bodies is a critical part of a holistic justice and accountability agenda for protracted conflicts characterised by serious atrocity such as Yemen.

The report – authored by GLAN legal Advisor Dr Valentina Azarova, together with Roy Isbister (Saferworld) and Carlo Mazzoleni – draws upon the work of NGOs and lawyers in all the jurisdictions covered and has been extensively reviewed by a range of legal experts. The collective thinking and analysis that forms the basis for the report originates in a September 2019 convening in London (by GLAN, Saferworld and Oxfam) of practitioners, NGO representatives and law and policy experts on the global arms trade.

Download the report here:

Download PDF • 1.02MB


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