In the last few minutes the Court of Appeal has ruled that UK arms sales to Saudi Arabia for use in Yemen are unlawful.
The Court of Appeal concluded that it was ‘irrational and therefore unlawful’ for the Secretary of State for International Trade to have granted licences without making any assessment as to whether violations of international humanitarian law had taken place.
This historic judgment means that the government must now stop issuing new arms exports licences, and retake all decisions to export arms to Saudi in accordance with the law.
We celebrate this historic verdict. But these weapons sales should never have been licensed in the first place. It should not take a group of campaigners taking the Government to court to force it to apply its own rules.
It shouldn’t take four years of schools, hospitals, weddings, and funerals being bombed. It should not take tens of thousands of deaths and the worst humanitarian crisis in the world.
We must also question a system – and the priorities of government – that have allowed the continuing provision of arms in these circumstances.
This isn’t the end.
The government is likely to continue to fight this decision, even now. So now is the time to ramp up the pressure and make sure they finally prioritise human lives over arms trade profits.
Every year, CAAT activists attend the Annual General Meeting of the UK’s biggest arms company, BAE Systems. We do this so that we can challenge the Board face to face and expose the hypocrisy and greed at the heart of the arms trade. One campaigner who attended this year was Arabian activist, Ameen Nemer. Here he reflects on his reasons for going and how he found the experience.
I attended because I wanted to provide a voice for Arabian people. The absolute monarch does not represent the people in Arabia. The House of Saud tries to kidnap our voices. BAE has fallen for the propaganda and presents the regime as a liberating force. I attended so that I could tell the Board and shareholders about what is really happening to my people and land.
I am sure the BAE AGM will be happy not to have that voice which reminds them of the dirty job they are doing. No matter how nice they present themselves using polite language and advance technology, criminals are still criminals. They need to be exposed, and CAAT is doing a great job.
Shareholders got to direct questions to BAE’s Chair, Roger Carr. He was obviously well-briefed and had prepared answers for questions about the bombing in Yemen. His words may have been delivered with confidence, but they were morally bankrupt.
New SIPRI arms transfers data shows small overall increase in global trade, but huge increase in sales to the Middle East.
The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) yesterday releasedits latest data on the global arms trade, for which it is by far the best source. The data provides details of deliveries of major conventional weapons worldwide from 1950-2018, both in numerical terms and with searchable lists of the actual weapons transferred between countries. The information can be found in SIPRI’s database, and some of the key points are discussed in a fact sheet also published yesterday.
Last month CAAT and the CAAT Universities Network co-hosted a very important meeting at the School of Oirental and African Studies, London.
The murder of Jamal Khashoggi’s has put the UK-Saudi relationship under more scrutiny than ever before. Unfortunately there has been more scrutiny of his murder than of the death and destruction that Saudi forces have inflicted on Yemen, and of the ongoing human rights abuses for those living and working in Saudi Arabia and those affected by Saudi Arabia’s international policies. On the 19th November, we co-hosted an event on ‘Saudi-British relations: silenced oppressions & complicity’.
Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman, principal architect of the war on Yemen which has devastated the country and caused what the UN has called a “humanitarian catastrophe”, has been invited to the UK. On 25th January, Lucie Kinchin from CAAT joined with representatives from other NGOs and human rights organisations to hand in an open letter to say he is not welcome here.
January 9th marked three years since imprisoned Saudi blogger Raif Badawi was flogged by the Saudi Arabian state. CAAT joined English PEN, Reporters Without Borders and Amnesty International at a vigil outside the Saudi embassy. We demanded Raif’s immediate release and an end to arms sales to Saudi Arabia.
What is happening in Yemen should be plastered across every UK newspaper, every day. Saudi forces are using UK-supplied weapons to destroy vital civilian infrastructure, including schools, hospitals, water supplies and electrical grids.
This September, thousands of people took part in two weeks of effective action against the DSEI arms fair, but we were acting for millions more across the UK. One thing we always have to remember is that public opinion is firmly on our side and that the overwhelming majority of people across the country are appalled by events like DSEI.