UK resumes licensing arms exports to Saudi Arabia

Amnesty International activist in protest against UK arms sales to Saudi Arabia in 2016 Amnesty International activist in protest against UK arms sales to Saudi Arabia in 2016 Chris Ratcliffe/Getty Images

08 July 2020

The UK resumes export licenses for the sale or transfer of arms to Saudi Arabia despite concerns they could be used against in the Yemen conflict

On the statement made on 7 July 2020, UK’s Secretary of State for International Trade, Liz Truss announced the completion of a review of UK arms export licensing ordered by the Court of Appeal. The Department for International Trade decided to continue to grant further licenses for military exports to Saudi Arabia as “there is not a clear risk that the export of arms and military equipment to Saudi Arabia might be used in the commission of a serious violation of IHL”

The Statement is a response to the UK Court of Appeal’s ordered appeal dated 10 July 2017. More recently, in June 2020, the UK Court of Appeal declared the government’s decision to approve arms export to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia was irrational and unlawful as the government did not assess Saudi’s violations of IHL in the past.  

For this reason, the Secretary of State for International Trade agreed to review the Court’s allegations by reference to the relevant principles of IHL and in the light of all the information and intelligence available to determine if there is a risk the arms might be used in Yemen. Accordingly, in the meantime the UK government stopped issuing licenses for arms exports to Saudi Arabia or its Yemen-coalition partners, where there was any risk the arms were to be used in Yemen.

On the last statement released on 7 July 2020, the Secretary of State confirmed the competition of the IHL analysis and claimed there is an absence of patterns and trends across the incidents occurring in Saudi. Hence, the Department of International declared there is not a clear risk that the UKs exports of arms are used by Saudi Arabia in the Yemen war to violate IHL. Consequently, the Department for International Trade will now process new license applications for exports to Saudi Arabia and its coalition partners.

According to Alyn Smith, Scottish National Party’s foreign affairs spokesman, the UK government has “repeatedly and disgracefully put profits before peace”. The UK will continue to be one of the main suppliers of fighter aircraft and bombs for Saudi Arabia’s devastating war in Yemen.


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Author: Carolina Tellez; Editor: Sara Gorelli

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