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British courts should decide legality of Government arms exports to Saudi Arabia

15 September 2016

In response to calls for the UK to suspend arms sales to Saudi Arabia due to allegations that continued exports would breach the Government's legal obligations, the Foreign Affairs Committee has published a report which sets out their views.

The Committee considers that the courts are the most appropriate body to judge whether the Government has broken the law. This will now be established in the upcoming judicial review granted to The Campaign Against Arms Trade.

British interest in continued UK-Saudi relations cannot override the UK's wider legal and moral obligations, say the MPs. The Committee backs calls for an independent inquiry into the allegations of violations of international humanitarian law by the Saudi-led Coalition in Yemen.

Chair's comments

Chair of the Foreign Affairs Committee, Crispin Blunt MP, said:

"Saudi Arabia is a key partner of the United Kingdom in addressing our shared challenges in the Middle East. I am yet to hear any persuasive argument for how we better secure our many strategic objectives in the region without a strong relationship with Saudi Arabia. This includes bringing about a political solution to the current conflict in Yemen, that was so deplorably precipitated by the armed Houthi rebellion in 2014.

However, the massive British interest in continued UK-Saudi relations cannot override our wider legal and moral obligations. It is crucial that the UK does everything in its power to ensure full compliance with international humanitarian law by the Saudi-led coalition.

We have called for an independent UN-led investigation into allegations of violations of IHL to supplement the internal investigations of the Saudi-led coalition. We have made serious criticisms of the Government's handling of the situation and the lack of transparency, which has materially damaged public trust in the arms export controls system. We have made substantive recommendations on the need to establish clarity on such issues as the alleged use of UK-manufactured cluster bombs in Yemen and the activities of UK personnel with the Saudi-led coalition.

The appropriateness of the current framework of the law is a separate, yet pertinent, question, on which we did not take evidence. I believe that there is a clear need for a wider discussion on the suitability of the laws governing arms exports.

The Government has serious work to do in answering this report."

Further information

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