Britain made an 'error of law' in its decision to grant licences for the sale of arms and military equipment to Saudi Arabia
The British government said on Thursday it would suspend issuing new Saudi licences for the sale of arms that might be used in the Gulf kingdom's bombing campaign in Yemen.
International Trade Secretary Liam Fox announced the decision in parliament after a British court ordered the government to "reconsider" the sales because of their humanitarian impact.
Britain made an “error of law’ in its decision to grant licences for the sale of arms and military equipment to Saudi Arabia, a panel of three judges said.
The ruling is a victory for Campaign Against Arms Trade, which brought the lawsuit, saying the conflict in Yemen meant there was a “clear risk” that arms could be used in violation of international law.
The court said that the UK government made no assessments of whether the Saudi-led coalition had violated humanitarian law in the past.
“The horrors that the world has witnessed in Yemen can no longer be ignored by the UK government,” said Rosa Curling, a lawyer for the group of activists.
“The government will now have to reconsider whether to suspend existing export licenses and reconsider its decision to continue to grant licences.”
The ruling stops short of suspending licences to Saudi Arabia immediately, but the government “must reconsider the matter,” the judges said, as they overturned a lower court’s ruling that had backed the government’s stance.
The UK government can make the same decision to grant export licences again, if considers all the relevant issues.
The Department for International Trade didn’t immediately comment.