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UK court rejects bid to halt Saudi arms sales

شعار Al Jazeera Al Jazeera 10/07/2017
More than 10,000 people have been killed during the war in Yemen [File: Hani Mohammed/AP Photo] © Provided by Al Jazeera More than 10,000 people have been killed during the war in Yemen [File: Hani Mohammed/AP Photo]

London's High Court has ruled that Britain's multi-billion-pound arms sales to its ally Saudi Arabia is lawful. 

The Campaign Against the Arms Trade (CAAT) had sought an order to block export licences for British-made bombs, fighter jets and other munitions that it argued were being used by the Saudi-led Arab coalition in Yemen in violation of international humanitarian law. 

But on Monday, the High Court said "the claimant's claim for judicial review is dismissed".

The court ruled there had been extensive political and military engagement with Saudi Arabia regarding the conduct of operations in Yemen and the Saudis had "sought positively to address concerns about international humanitarian law".

CAAT said it would appeal the decision, calling the ruling "very disappointing".  

"If this verdict is upheld then it will be seen as a green light for government to continue arming and supporting brutal dictatorships and human rights abusers like Saudi Arabia that have shown a blatant disregard for international humanitarian law," CAAT's Andrew Smith said in a statement.

READ MORE: UK activists demand end to Saudi Arabia, UAE arms sales

An annual report by UN experts who monitor sanctions and the conflict in Yemen, seen by Reuters news agency in January, said the Saudi-led coalition had carried out attacks in Yemen that "may amount to war crimes", accusations that Riyadh has rejected. 

CAAT had been seeking a judicial review over the government's decision to allow arms exports to continue to Saudi Arabia, a major customer for British defence companies and an important British ally in countering "terrorism".

Al Jazeera's Paul Brennan, reporting from London, said the judges involved said "their job was not to look at the exports themselves, but to imply look at the decision-making process". 

The court said that "Saudi Arabia has been, and remains, genuinely committed to compliance with International humanitarian law; and there was no 'real risk' that there might be 'serious violations' of International humanitarian law [in its various manifestations] such that UK arm sales to Saudi Arabia should be suspended or cancelled".

In 2015, Saudi Arabia and its allies launched an air campaign aimed at reversing Houthi military gains and backing Yemen's UN-recognised government.

Two years of conflict have killed more than, wounded tens of thousands and displaced millions.

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