RW (UK) and others Intervene in Judicial Review of UK Arms Exports to Saudi Arabia for Use in Yemen

Next week will see the High Court rule for the first time on the lawfulness of the UK’s trade in arms to Saudi Arabia in the context of the conflict in Yemen. The judicial review brought by the Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT) against the Secretary of State responsible for licensing exports of weapons will begin on Tuesday 7 February and is expected to last for three days.

CAAT argues that it is unlawful for the UK government to continue to allow export of arms to Saudi Arabia in light of the mounting evidence as to the alleged breaches of international humanitarian law by the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen. CAAT argues that, where there is a clear risk that weapons might be used to commit serious violations of international humanitarian law, the government is obliged to suspend the sale of weapons.

International organizations, including the United Nations, the European Parliament and many NGOs, have condemned the Saudi Arabia-led Coalition airstrikes in Yemen as constituting serious violations of international humanitarian law. However, the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (DBIS) continues to approve licenses for a wide range of military equipment for export to Saudi Arabia. According to the report of the Joint Committee on Export Arms Control, it is ‘inevitable’ that UK arms have been used in violation of international humanitarian law.

Rights Watch (UK), together with Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, has been granted leave to intervene in the case, making submissions on how the UK’s obligations under international law should affect arms export decisions. Under international law, if the UK knowingly aids or assists Saudi Arabia to breach legal standards in the Yemen conflict, the UK could be responsible itself. In our intervention, we have made clear that the UK, in approving arms exports to Saudi Arabia, is itself at risk of violating international law.

Yasmine Ahmed, Executive Director of Rights Watch (UK), said

“Rights Watch (UK) has very real concerns that the UK, in approving arms exports to Saudi Arabia, is itself violating international law. In the circumstances, it is crucial that the UK’s role in supporting the Saudi Arabian military campaign in Yemen is properly scrutinised by the UK Courts, which is why we have sought to draw to the Court’s attention to the relevant rules of international law governing complicity for internationally unlawful acts.”


Rights Watch (UK), Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International’s full submissions are available here

For further information please contact:

Andrew Smith, Campaign Against Arms Trade at or on 020 7281 0297/ 07990 673232

Yasmine Ahmed, Executive Director of Rights Watch (UK) at or on 07531405665/0203 6030 972

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