1150 GMT March 23, 2018
The ‘disappointing’ decision, announced Monday, brought an end to the case brought by Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT), which accused the UK government of supplying bombs and fighter jets which have been used by Saudi Arabia in the Yemen conflict.
The judgment comes at a time when the British Prime Minister Theresa May has attracted criticism from activists for the country's arms deals with Saudi Arabia, CNN reported.
According to The Guardian, CAAT spokesman Andrew Smith said: “This is a very disappointing verdict, and we are pursuing an appeal. If this verdict is upheld then it will be seen as a green light for government to continue arming and supporting brutal dictatorships and human rights abusers like Saudi Arabia that have shown a blatant disregard for international humanitarian law.
“Every day we are hearing new and horrifying stories about the humanitarian crisis that has been inflicted on the people of Yemen. Thousands have been killed while vital and lifesaving infrastructure has been destroyed.” The case had exposed the UK’s “toxic relationship” with Saudi Arabia, he added.
Riyadh has been incessantly pounding Yemen since March 2015 in a bid to reinstall the country’s ex-government and crush the Houthi Ansarullah movement.
According to the latest tally by a Yemeni monitoring group, the military aggression has claimed the lives of over 11,400 Yemenis, including women and children. Also UN officials have said that about 10,000 civilians have died in the war.
Delivering an open judgment in the high court in London, Lord Justice Burnett, who heard the case with Justice Haddon-Cave, said: “We have concluded that the material decisions of the secretary of state were lawful. We therefore dismiss the claim.”
The judgment was “necessarily long and rather dense”, he said. The court is also handing down a closed judgment, following a case in which half of the evidence was heard in secret after the government argued it contained sensitive information that could not be heard in public for national security reasons.
Saudi Arabia, UK’s largest weapons client, has bought more than £3bn of British arms in the last two years.
UK and EU arms sales rules state that export licenses cannot be granted if there is a “clear risk” that the equipment could be used to break international humanitarian law. CAAT argued that a significant body of public material showed there was such a risk.
“The open and closed evidence demonstrated that the secretary of state was rationally entitled to conclude” the Saudi-led coalition was not deliberately targeting civilians, was properly investigating allegations of civilian casualties and was engaging with the British government about its concerns, the judges found.
Rosa Curling of Leigh Day said: “The law is clear: where there is a clear risk UK arms might be used in the commission of serious violations of international law, arm sales cannot go ahead.
“Nothing in the open evidence, presented by the UK government to the court, suggests this risk does not exist in relation to arms to Saudi Arabia. Indeed, all the evidence we have seen from Yemen suggests the opposite: the risk is very real ... Our government should not be allowing itself to be complicit in the grave violations of law taking place by the Saudi coalition in Ye