UK Govt Says Halting Arms Sales To Saudi Arabia Would Have Risks

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The British government has claimed it cannot halt its weapons sales to Saudi Arabia because of “serious political ramifications”

Halting arms sales to Saudi Arabia over concerns that British-made weapons could be used to break humanitarian laws in Yemen would have “serious political ramifications”, a London court heard on Wednesday.

Government lawyer James Eadie made the remarks during a UK High Court’s judicial review of London’s extensive arms deals with Riyadh.

Press TV reports:

Led by the Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT), British activists have brought the case to the court, accusing May’s government of complicity in Riyadh’s war crimes against Yemen.

Britain has signed off £3.3 billion in arms sales to Saudi Arabia since March 26, 2015, when the Saudi began its deadly military aggression against Yemen, killing over 11,000 Yemeni civilians.

Denying CAAT’s charges, Eadie argued that the government should not prevent weapons manufacturers from following their business interests.

“If you refuse to allow exports you interfere with the interests – if not rights – of those who wish to export their goods,” Eadie said. Such measures would also “create some risk that you may affect diplomatic relations with that country.”

He further argued that the government of Prime Minister Theresa May should not have to “set themselves up as auditors of armed conflict by friendly governments” and decide whether the weapons that are being sold would be used in conflict.

London, which has been one of the biggest suppliers of weapons to Riyadh for 40 years, has provided Tornado and Eurofighter Typhoon jets along with training to Saudi pilots participating in the war, which has killed thousands of Yemeni civilians.

The British government has also admitted to exporting 500 illegal cluster bombs to Saudi Arabia in the 1980s which the country used in its war on Yemen.

In November, the government rejected calls by two parliamentary committees and human rights groups to stop selling arms to Saudi Arabia, arguing that the weapons were not being used in “a serious violation of International Humanitarian Law (IHL).”

According to evidence presented by CAAT to the court on Tuesday, the government has ignored concerns about the issue within its own ranks.

“To be honest, and I was very direct and honest with the secretary of state, my gut tells me we should suspend [weapons exports to the country],”Edward Bell, head of the UK Export Control Organization, wrote in an email to then business secretary Sajid Javid in February 2016.

The remaining one-and-a-half days of the three-day hearing will be held in private to the nature of the sensitive evidence.

Niamh Harris
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