The UK is a major supplier of weapons to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia – in fact, it is widely accepted that the Saudi-UAE-led coalition could not conductits air campaign in Yemen without the UK's support. All arms sales are made under licenses issued by the Secretary of State for International Trade, who is required by law to make decisions against the UK’s Consolidated EU and National Arms Sales Criteria. Under these criteria, the government must refuse to grant a license if there is a “clear risk” that the weapon might be used in a serious violation of international humanitarian law.
The UK-based organisation Campaign Against Arms Trade saw a historic victory in 2019 after their challenge to continued arms sales was successful on appeal. As a result of the court’s order quashing the government’s licensing decisions, there emerged a chance for civil society to convince the UK government to comply with its obligations under national and international law, and suspend arms exports.
For more information on the CAAT case, see CAAT's website, or read this post on Just Security by Dearbhla Minogue and Kristine Beckerle of GLAN and Mwatana. See also this law article by Admas Habteslasie of Landmark Chambers, who advised GLAN and Mwatana on our submission to the Secretary of State.
On 11 August 2019, GLAN and Mwatana submitted substantial information directly to the Secretary of State for International Trade, along with a legal letter from our solicitors setting out why the case has been made for the immediate suspension of arms sales to Saudi Arabia. The objective was to ensure that this submission gave the government everything it needed to accurately assess the risk of future violations – in particular by providing detailed witness evidence and comprehensive photographic documentation of attack sites and munition remnants.
The culmination of months of close work between GLAN and Mwatana, the information addressed specific patterns of attack and failings by the Coalition’s accountability mechanism, the Joint Incident Assessment Team (JIAT). In particular, it highlighted many instances in which, despite conclusive evidence to the contrary, JIAT concluded that the Coalition had not attacked the locations in question. No decision has yet been communicated to us by the Secretary of State.
Release of evidence
Over seven months after GLAN and Mwatana submitted this information to the Secretary of State for International Trade, no new arms licensing have been made. To illustrate the need for scrutiny of the government's actions, GLAN and Mwatana have released the information on [DATE], in conjunction with a call for the urgent reinstatement of a full Select Committee on arms licensing. Read [OP-ED] here.
To assist with the proper analysis of the evidence against international legal standards, GLAN also released an international humanitarian law (IHL) overview. This document introduces the core principles of IHL and applies them to the detailed evidence compiled by the organisations.
All of the documents can be downloaded from our website.