The British High Court ruled that the government is not breaking the law by continuing to sell weapons to Saudi Arabia, contradicting claims made last year by independent observers and U.N. officials that large numbers of civilians are being killed as a result of Saudi Arabia's military campaign against Yemen.
The Independent reported that activists from the Campaign Against Arms Trade took the British department responsible for arms control to court after weapons continued to be transported to Saudi Arabia even after the bombing of hospitals, schools, and weddings.
The court ruled that the secretary of state was “rationally entitled to conclude... (that) the Coalition were not deliberately targeting civilians.” It also noted that the Saudis and coalition members were “investigating incidents of controversy, including those involving civilian casualties.”
Lord Justice Burnett, arguing on behalf of Yemeni victims of indiscriminate, high powered bombings, said that there was a “clear risk that the items might be used in the commission of a serious violation of international humanitarian law.”
Oxfam noted that there was a “clear moral case to suspend sales,” while Amnesty International lamented that the ruling was a “deadly blow” to civilians in Yemen.
Secret evidence presented by the British government, and corroborated by the court, was said to have included Saudi Arabia's “high resolution MoD-sourced imagery” and “fast-jet operational reporting data” and “U.K. defense intelligence reports and battle damage assessment.” Combined, the high-tech military equipment, according to the judgment summary, is supposed to possess the “hallmark of a rigorous and robust, multi-layered process of analysis.”
Information presented by campaigners was derided, characterized as being “only part of the picture.”
Since the U.S.-backed, Saudi military campaign in Yemen began in March 2015, the U.K. has sold over US$4 billion worth of weapons to Saudi Arabia.