Amid the continuing outcry over the Saudi-led coalition's human rights violations in Yemen, the British government said yesterday it would suspend issuing new Saudi licenses for the sale of arms that might be used in the Gulf kingdom's bombing campaign in Yemen.
The Court of Appeal ruled in favor of anti-weapons campaigners, who argued that the sales should not have been allowed because there was a clear risk the weapons might be used in violation of international humanitarian law. The British government plans to appeal the ruling, but while the case is ongoing, Trade Secretary Liam Fox said no new licenses for arms sales to Saudi Arabia would be granted. Shares in Britain's BAE Systems defense and aerospace giants lost almost three percent of their value within an hour of the government's announcement.
Yesterday's ruling was part of a long-running court battle that the U.K.-based Campaign against Arms Trade (CAAT) non-profit first launched against the British government in December 2015. The U.K. High Court had ruled in July 2017 that the arms exports were "lawful." The Court of Appeal reversed that decision yesterday. Britain accounts for 23 percent of arms imports to Saudi Arabia and last year signed a multi-billion-pound preliminary order with Riyadh for 48 Eurofighter Typhoon fighter jets. Government figures analyzed by CAAT show that Britain has licensed nearly $6.4 billion in weapons to the kingdom since the Saudi-led campaign began in 2015.
The coalition led by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) has been using weapons produced in Europe and the U.S. to kill and wound hundreds of civilians in Yemen, according to a report released by a Yemen-based human rights group last month. Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, previously the Saudi defense minister and Saudi Arabia's allies launched Operation Decisive Storm in March 2015. The ongoing war has resulted in the worst humanitarian crisis in the world, with an estimated 24 million people, close to 80 percent of the population, in need of assistance and protection in Yemen, according to the U.N. The World Health Organization (WHO) says some 10,000 people have been killed since the coalition intervened in 2015, but rights groups state the death toll could be five times as high.
The Saudi-led coalition is continuing to target residential areas, with the latest reports showed that three children and a woman were killed in a Saudi-led coalition airstrike that was targeting the Yemeni district of Abes in Sanaa's northern province of Hajjah. Many atrocities have been reported so far, which have revealed multiple violations of human rights. In April, the Saudi-led coalition bombed houses and a school in a residential area in the rebel-held capital Sanaa, killing 14 children and leaving 16 critically injured.
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