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Britain under fire over arms sales to Saudi Arabia

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Britain under fire over arms sales to Saudi Arabia


Fresh controversy is surrounding the UK over its selling of arms to Saudi Arabia and their role in the war in Yemen.

A Saudi-led coalition has been bombing Houthi rebels in Yemen since March.

Today, lawyers representing Campaign Against Arms Trade claimed the coalition’s air-strikes were targeting civilians.

Law firm Leigh Day has threatened the UK government with legal action unless it suspends all licenses permitting UK produced arms to be sent to Saudi Arabia.

Although the Saudi-led campaign in Yemen has the backing of the UN Security Council, on November 12, Leigh Day wrote to the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills saying ‘in light of alleged grave breaches of international humanitarian law’ that it was concerned about arms sales to Saudi Arabia.

In August Stephen O’Brien, UN under-secretary general for humanitarian affairs, told the UN Security Council that the Saudi Arabian attacks ‘on civilian areas had clearly broken international law’.

The UK’s Foreign Secretary, Philip Hammond, confirmed last month that weapons manufactured in the UK are being used by Saudi Arabia.

The opponents of exporting weapons to Saudi Arabia said almost 6,000 people have been killed since the military campaign began and according to the UN estimates, 60 per cent of those who have been killed or wounded have been civilians.

“The conflict in Yemen has turned the country into one of the world’s worst humanitarian crises,” Amnesty International said in a statement. “Civilian targets including hospitals, schools, markets, grain warehouses, ports and a displaced persons camp have been hit in airstrikes by Saudi-led coalition forces.

“All sides in the conflict are responsible for causing the humanitarian crisis in Yemen. The UK is not alone in sending arms to and supporting parties to the conflict. Several other countries, including France, Germany, Iran, Italy, Russia and the US have reportedly also supplied arms to the Saudi Arabia-led coalition now fighting in Yemen, with supplies to the Houthis clouded in secrecy.”

Saudi Arabia says Shia-armed rebels have taken control of most of Yemen and they are not the country’s legitimate government.

The UK’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office said in a statement to parliament in November: “The UK takes its arms export responsibilities very seriously and operates one of the most robust arms export control regimes in the world. We rigorously examine every application on a case-by-case basis against the Consolidated EU and National Arms Export Licensing Criteria.”

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