Friday, June 21, 2019


For the past four years, Saudi Arabia has been indiscriminately bombing Yemen, attcking hospitals and other civilian targets and committing war crimes. They're doing it in part with British weapons, exported by British arms dealers with the approval of the British government. Now, the UK Court of Appeal has declared those approvals unlawful:

British arms sales to Saudi Arabia have been ruled unlawful by the court of appeal in a critical judgment that also accused ministers of ignoring whether airstrikes that killed civilians in Yemen broke humanitarian law.

Three judges said that a decision made in secret in 2016 had led them to decide that Boris Johnson, Jeremy Hunt and Liam Fox and other key ministers had illegally signed off on arms exports without properly assessing the risk to civilians.

Sir Terence Etherton, the master of the rolls, said on Tuesday that ministers had “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”.

As a result, the court said that the UK export licensing process was “wrong in law in one significant respect” and ordered Fox, the international trade secretary, to hold an immediate review of at least £4.7bn worth of arms deals with Saudi Arabia.

Significantly, the court found that the British government had consciously decided to turn a blind eye to war crimes in order to allow continued arms sales. Those sales have now been suspended, but international trade secretary Liam Fox has apparently told people that he does not expect any permits to be overturned when war crimes are considered. Which seems to be both pre-determination (and further grounds for judicial review), and a further example of the problem. Ministers obviously don't care if the arms trade is moral, but now they are no longer even pretending to care about whether it is even legal, provided their mates get to keep on profiting by selling weapons to war criminals. And that is something they need to be held responsible for.