UK To Resume Arms Sales To Saudi Arabia In Decision Branded 'Morally Bankrupt'

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The UK will resume arms sales to Saudi Arabia after the trade secretary ruled that the kingdom was not regularly deliberately breaching international law in the Yemen conflict.

Liz Truss said a fresh analysis of whether Saudi air strikes were compliant with international humanitarian law concluded any alleged breaches were “isolated incidents” and so there was no “clear risk” in resuming arms sales.

But the decision was branded “morally bankrupt” by campaigners whose legal action forced the government to halt arms sales to Saudi Arabia in June 2019, after the Court of Appeal ruled continuing sales would be “unlawful”.

The decision – coming the day after the UK imposed sanctions on 20 Saudi nationals linked to the killing of the journalist Jamal Khashoggi – was condemned as “rank hypocrisy” by the Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT), which brought the original case.

It followed claims that Saudi warplanes fighting in the coalition against Iranian-backed Houthi rebels had repeatedly targeted civilian gatherings including weddings, funerals and markets.

People inspect a school after airstrikes carried out by the Saudi-led coalition in Sanaa, Yemen, on Feb. 12, 2016. (Xinhua/Hani Ali) (Photo by Xinhua/Sipa USA)
People inspect a school after airstrikes carried out by the Saudi-led coalition in Sanaa, Yemen, on Feb. 12, 2016. (Xinhua/Hani Ali) (Photo by Xinhua/Sipa USA)

In its judgment, the court said the government had failed to make any concluded assessment of whether the Saudis and their allies had committed violations of international humanitarian law and had “made no attempt to do so”.

In her statement, Truss said an analysis had now been carried out of “all credible incidents of concern” and had concluded the Saudis had a “genuine intent” to comply with international humanitarian law and that military exports could resume.

While some had been assessed as “possible” violations of international humanitarian law, the analysis had not revealed any “patterns, trends or systemic weaknesses”.

Truss said: “On that basis, I...

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