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Courts Anti-arms campaigners granted appeal on ruling declaring arms exports to Saudis are lawful

ANTI-ARMS campaigners have been granted permission to appeal a ruling declaring that arms exports to Saudi Arabia were lawful.

The Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT) has an “arguable” case that the Department for International Trade (DTI) has an obligation to decide whether “there had been historic serious violations of [international humanitarian law] by the [Saudi-led] coalition in the Yemen,” the Court of Appeal ruled today.

CAAT challenged the DTI’s failure to suspend arms export licences to Saudi Arabia in February 2017, arguing that there was a “clear risk” that arms sold to the kingdom would be used in violation of international law.

The High Court rejected CAAT’s case last July, but the Court of Appeal granted permission to appeal that judgement, which will be heard on a date to be fixed.

Lord Justices Irwin and Flaux said that it was “obvious that withholding this licence, or renewal of this licence, is likely to have significant implications for the international relations of the United Kingdom, and potentially for employment in the United Kingdom.”

They acknowledged that those issues were “matters for the executive and not the courts,” but added that those considerations were “not part of the criteria for the grant or withholding” of arms export licences.

Since the Saudi-led bombardment of Yemen began in March 2015, £4.6 billion of arms have been licensed for export by Britain, including £2.7bn of licences for aircraft and £1.9bn for grenades, bombs and missiles.

CAAT’s Andrew Smith said: “The Saudi-led bombardment of Yemen has killed thousands of people and created one of the worst humanitarian disasters in the world.

“Despite this, the Saudi regime has been armed and supported every step of the way by successive UK governments.

"We believe that these arms sales are immoral and are confident that the Court of Appeal will agree that they are unlawful.”

Rosa Curling from Leigh Day, which represented CAAT, said she was “delighted” that permission had been granted, adding that it was clear from the publicly available evidence “that there is a clear risk the arms sold from the UK might be used in serious violation of international law.

“Where our politicians have sadly failed to follow UK legislation and policy, our client hopes the court will ensure the rule of law is upheld.”

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