According to a report published by the British daily Guardian on Sunday, the court of appeals declared last year that British arms sales to the kingdom were “unlawful,” and accused ministers of ignoring whether airstrikes that killed civilians in Yemen broke humanitarian law.
At the time, the court barred the UK government from approving any new license to Saudi Arabia and ordered then Secretary of State for International Trade Liam Fox to hold an immediate review of at least 4.7 billion pounds’ worth of arms deals with Saudi Arabia.
British international trade authorities said at the time that the process would take “up to several months.”
Nevertheless, arms exports continue without properly assessing the risk to civilians, a year after the verdict, and fighter jet components as well as aircraft maintenance services are being offered to the Riyadh regime.‘
British multinational defense, security, and aerospace company BAE Systems, which is recognized as the UK’s largest arms exporter to Saudi Arabia, confirmed in its 2019 report that it continues to provide the kingdom with support services for twin-engine and multirole Eurofighter Typhoon warplanes under a contract struck in 2018.
Lately, Shadow Secretary of State for International Trade Emily Anne Thornberry, together with members of other opposition parties, wrote a letter to Secretary of State for International Trade Liz Truss in protest at the arms licenses that continue to operate.
“We are left to assume that – despite being ordered to review these licenses by the courts, and having 12 months to do so – your department has simply chosen not to comply,” they argued.
They warn that the British government’s expected failure to comply “creates the illogical situation where a UK company that applies for a license today will have that application rejected, but another company that was granted its license prior to 20 June last year may export exactly the same arms without restriction.”
Andrew Smith, of the Campaign Against the Arms Trade, said, “The UK government has consistently put arms company interests ahead of the rights and lives of people in Yemen. The government has proven that it cannot be trusted to implement its own rules.”
The United Kingdom has reportedly licensed the sale of arms worth over 5.3 billion pounds to Saudi Arabia ever since Riyadh and a number of its regional allies launched a devastating war on Yemen in March 2015 in order to bring former President Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi back to power and crush the Houthi Ansarullah movement.
The US-based Armed Conflict Location and Event Data Project (ACLED), a nonprofit conflict-research organization, estimates that the war has claimed more than 100,000 lives over the past five years.