LONDON – Britain has complied with a court order over its decisions on granting export licences to sell arms to Saudi Arabia, its trade minister said on Tuesday, meaning it can once again issue new licences to export arms to the kingdom.
The Court of Appeal last year ruled that Britain broke the law by allowing arms sales to Saudi Arabia that might have been deployed in the war in Yemen.
The court concluded that Britain’s government had erred in law in its decision-making processes on arms export licences to Saudi Arabia, after activists said there was evidence the weapons had been used in violation of human rights statutes.
While the court’s decision did not mean Britain had to halt arms exports to Saudi Arabia, it did mean it had to pause the granting of new export licenses to sell arms to the kingdom – Britain’s biggest weapons purchaser.
Trade minister Liz Truss said the government had “now re-taken the decisions that were the subject of judicial review on the correct legal basis, as required”.
“It follows that the undertaking (given) to the Court – that we would not grant any new licences for the export of arms or military equipment to Saudi Arabia for possible use in Yemen – falls away,” she said in a written statement.
The legal action against the British government was brought by the Campaign Against the Arms Trade, which wants to end the global arms trade and argued that British weapons were likely to have been used in Yemen in violation of human rights law.
Truss said the review found that Saudi Arabia had “genuine intent and the capacity to comply with IHL (International Humanitarian Law)”
“On that basis, I have assessed that 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,” she said.