The British government faces legal action over refusal to halt the issuing of weapons export licenses to Saudi Arabia amid widespread censure of the kingdom’s human rights violations and its actions in Yemen.
Leading proceedings are being carried by the Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT) NGO against the UK’s Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, tasked in part with evaluating export licenses, over accusations that it is not fulfilling its duties to stop and stem violations of international humanitarian law, the Guardian reported on Saturday.
In a 19-page legal warning, CAAT has warned the government that it has 14 days to halt the export licenses to Riyadh or face proceedings in the high court.
According to CAAT, UK’s arms and military equipment are used in Saudi Arabia aggression against Yemen where thousands of civilians have been killed.
The warning cites article two of the “EU Council Common Position on arms sales,” according to which member states must refrain from the sales of arms if “a clear risk” is present that the weaponry may be used in violation of international humanitarian law.
A Business department spokeswoman has confirmed the letter, but refrained from further comments over “ongoing legal action.”
According to CAAT’s Andrew Smith, “UK weapons have been central to a bombing campaign that has killed thousands of people, destroyed vital infrastructure and inflamed tensions in the region.”
“The UK has been complicit in the destruction by continuing to support airstrikes and provide arms, despite strong and increasing evidence that war crimes are being committed,” he added.
The group recently released figures showing that the UK has licensed the sales of over eight billion dollars of military hardware to Saudi Arabia since British Prime Minister David Cameron took office in May 2010. Apart from that, the Saudis’ human rights record has been under the spotlight for various violations especially the recent execution of Shia cleric Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr along with 46 other people.
The pending legal action came after the UN, the European parliament, and various human rights groups expressed worries over Saudi Arabia’s military actions in its impoverished neighboring country.
More than 7,500 people have been killed and over 14,000 others injured since Saudi airstrikes began in Yemen. The Saudi war has also taken a heavy toll on the impoverished country’s facilities and infrastructure.