Court grants judicial review of UK arms exports to Saudi Arabia

IssueAugust - September 2016
News by Andrew Smith

The high court was silent on 30 June when judge Andrew Gilbart announced that he would be granting a judicial review into the legality of UK arms sales to Saudi Arabia. It was only decorum and tradition that stopped us from cheering or breathing a big sigh of relief.

Our claim calls on the secretary of state for business, innovation & skills to suspend all current licences – and to stop issuing any more arms export licences to Saudi Arabia for weapons which could be used in Yemen – while he holds a full review to decide if the exports break UK and EU legislation.

There will now be a full three-day investigation in front of two judges, which must take place before 1 February 2017. This will be the first time that UK arms export policy has ever been put under the spotlight in this way.

Saudi Arabia is the UK’s biggest arms customer and its most shameful relationship. Not only is Saudi Arabia one of the world’s most authoritarian regimes, its repression at home and aggression abroad is being actively supported by UK arms sales.

Of course, it should never have taken a legal action by Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT) for this to be investigated. Over 6,000 people have been killed in Yemen in a bombing campaign that has created a humanitarian catastrophe, destroying vital infrastructure and leaving 80 percent of the population in need of aid.

Earlier this year, a UN expert panel accused Saudi Arabia of ‘widespread and systematic’ attacks on civilian targets. Despite this, the UK has continued to arm the Saudi regime. The government has licensed over £2.8bn-worth of arms since the bombing began last March.

This illustrates once again the enormous power of the arms lobby and the poisonous nature of the UK-Saudi relationship, a relationship that fuels instability and repression, corrupts our own political system and makes us complicit in Saudi Arabia's crimes.

Whatever the outcome of the review, the campaign has a long way to go.

As long as terrible crimes are being committed with UK weapons and with our government’s support, the campaign will continue. Whether it is online, in a court of law or on the streets outside arms company offices, we need to keep working together and keep up the pressure.