In the end, it only took minutes for the judge to deliver the verdict we’ve been waiting months for.
Lord Justice Burnett ruled that the UK government can rationally conclude that the Saudi-led Coalition is not deliberately targeting civilians in Yemen and is respecting International Humanitarian Law (IHL), and therefore continue to sell arms to Saudi Arabia.
The reaction in Court 1 was muted, but it was a deeply disappointing decision for the groups which brought the case and humanitarian agencies like ours working on the ground in Yemen. Campaign Against the Arms Trade immediately said they would appeal the verdict.
Since the war in Yemen began in March 2015, the UK has licenced more than £3bn worth of arms sales to Saudi Arabia, including fighter jets, tanks and missiles. Those weapons are then being used in the war in neighbouring Yemen, where the kingdom is heading up a coalition which has been accused by the United Nations and others of violating IHL by repeatedly attacking schools, hospitals and civilian areas.
Beyond the rarefied air of the Royal Courts of Justice, our team on the ground in Yemen see the impact of airstrikes and violence every day.
They are working with Ali, an 8 year old boy left partially deaf and traumatised after an airstrike threw him out of his second floor bedroom window. Or the two toddlers who suffered severe burns when a bomb hit the funeral they were attending in the capital Sanaa earlier this year.
They see a situation in which schools, hospitals and essential infrastructure have been hit in the midst of the world’s largest humanitarian crisis, where children are being ravaged by hunger and disease.
Our government shouldn’t wait for the outcome of an appeal. The UK should stand tall in the world and do the right thing – suspend arms sales to Saudi Arabia until an independent international investigation has been carried out.
We can already be proud of the UK’s role in providing aid to Yemen, but the government is giving with one hand and taking away with the other. We should be ashamed that our weapons are being used in a conflict which is causing untold suffering to civilians. Our greatest export to Yemen’s children should be hope, not fear.
Read more about the situation in Yemen:
- Pregnant women facing bombs and starvation in Yemen
- Lives torn apart: the child survivors of Yemen’s war
- We can’t ignore the hell that’s been created in Yemen
- Zuhair’s story: the boy who survived a bomb in Yemen
* Names have been changed to protected identity.