Sanaa Yemen Ruins After Airstrikes by Saudi-led coalition forces

Campaigners Win Legal Challenge Over UK Arms Sales To Saudi Arabia

The group 'Campaign Against Arms Trade' argued licensing military equipment for export to the Gulf state was unlawful.

Sanaa Yemen Ruins After Airstrikes by Saudi-led coalition forces

Ruins in Yemen after airstrikes by Saudi-led coalition forces in 2018 (Picture: PA).

Campaigners have won a landmark legal challenge against the Government over UK arms sales to Saudi Arabia.

Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT) argued that the decision to continue to license military equipment for export to the Gulf state, which is leading a coalition of forces in the Yemeni conflict, was unlawful.

The group said export licences should not have been granted as there was a clear risk that the arms might be used in a serious violation of international humanitarian law.

Giving judgment at the Court of Appeal on Thursday, Sir Terence Etherton said the Government had not attempted to assess whether the Saudi-led coalition had violated international humanitarian law.

He added that the Government "must reconsider the matter" and estimate any future risks, but stated export licences did not need to be immediately suspended.

Watch: The International Trade Secretary gave a statement to the House of Common's following the court ruling.

The Government is seeking permission to appeal the judgement and will not grant new export licences for Saudi Arabia and its coalition partners while it considers the implications of the ruling.

Making a statement to the House of Commons, International Trade Secretary Liam Fox said: "The Government has always taken its export control obligations very seriously and continues to do so.

"There were three grounds of appeal. The judgment found in the Government's favour in two of these grounds and against in the other."

Since early 2015, Saudi Arabia has led a coalition providing military assistance in Yemen to President Abdrabbuh Mansur Hadi, who is facing mainly Houthi forces loyal to the former president in a country in which terrorist organisations are also operating.

The UK has continued to allow sales since with CAAT claiming more than £4.7 billion of arms have been licensed, including aircraft, drones and missiles to Saudi Arabia since the bombing began in March 2015.

CAAT's Andrew Smith said the group welcomed the court's verdict on Thursday but said the "arms sales must stop immediately".

Watch: UK arms sales ruling 'very welcome'.