UK arms sales to Saudi Arabia have been declared unlawful by the court of appeal, in a major blow to both the government and the British defence industry.
A landmark legal ruling today concluded that ministers made no proper attempt to assess whether Saudi Arabia had breached international humanitarian law over civilian casualties in Yemen.
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The Campaign Against the Arms Trade, which made the judicial review, accused the UK government of unlawfully exporting military equipment to Saudi Arabia for its war in Yemen.
Licences should be reviewed but would not be immediately suspended, three judges who made the ruling said today.
The move could potentially have ramifications for British defence industry giants such as BAE systems, which has worked alongside the UK government to deliver arms contracts to Saudi Arabia.
Over the last four years the UK has licensed more than £4.7bn of arms exports to Saudi Arabia.
Master of the Rolls Sir Terence Etherton said the government “made no concluded assessments of whether the Saudi-led coalition had committed violations of international humanitarian law in the past, during the Yemen conflict, and made no attempt to do so”.
However, the government is set to challenge today’s decision.
Riyadh’s relationship with the UK government has come under increasing pressure over the Saudi-led bombing campaign in Yemen which began in 2015.
In March figures from the Yemen Data Project estimated that airstrikes have killed more than 8,000 civilians the bombing campaign started.