UK licensed £3.3 billion of arms to Saudi Arabia during first 12 months of Yemen bombardment

  • UK licensed £538 million worth of arms to Saudi Arabia in Q1 2016, despite serious accusations that Saudi forces are breaching international humanitarian law

  • Licences since conflict began include fighter jets and bombs that have been used against Yemen

  • Latest statistics show 63% of UK arms exports go to the Middle East. Saudi is by far the largest buyer of UK arms.

Official statistics, compiled by Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT), reveal that the

Banner outside High Court, London

Banner outside High Court, London

Image by CAAT website

(period covers April 2015 - March 2016).

The licences cover equipment purchased to be used in the conflict in Yemen including guided bombs and components for combat aircraft and licences for military communication equipment. The Saudi government is the world's biggest buyer of UK arms.

In Q1 2016, the government licensed £528 million worth of arms, the vast majority of which was a £522 million deal for military training aircraft for the Saudi Air Force. The latest licences were granted despite international opposition and warnings from the UN that Saudi forces were violating international law.

Andrew Smith of Campaign Against Arms Trade said“The UN has accused Saudi Arabian forces of violating international humanitarian law, the European Parliament has calling for an arms embargo, but, as usual when it comes to Saudi Arabia, the UK government has focused on arms sales.”

The weapon categories included for arms exports since the bombing of Yemen began include approximately:

  • £2.2 billion worth of ML10 licences (Aircraft, helicopters, drones)

  • £1.1 billion worth of ML4 licences (Grenades, bombs, missiles, countermeasures)

  • £430,000 worth of ML6 licences (Armoured vehicles, tanks)

Over 6000 people have been killed in the Saudi-led bombing campaign; destroying vital infrastructure and leaving 80% of the population in need of aid.

Andrew continued: “UK arms have been central to the humanitarian crisis that has been unleashed on Yemen. If the new Prime Minister wants to help the people of Yemen then she needs to break with the past, stop the arms sales and end the uncritical support for the Saudi regime.

A recent investigation revealed that UK licensed ammunition was used against an unarmed man in police raids earlier this year. The government has refused to investigate if UK arms are being used for internal repression.

UK arms sales to Saudi Arabia are currently subject to a judicial review, following an application by CAAT. The claim calls on the government to suspend all extant licences and stop issuing further arms export licences to Saudi Arabia for use in Yemen while it holds a full review into if exports are compatible with UK and EU law. A three day review will take place in front of two judges no later than 01 February 2017.

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