Today the Court of Appeal ruled that the government has failed to properly assess whether there have been breaches of International Humanitarian Law in arms sales to Saudi Arabia for use in Yemen. The government must now stop issuing new arms export licences and must suspend existing licences. The legal action was brought by Campaign against Arms Trade and CND congratulates them on this breakthrough victory.
In their judgment, the Master of the Rolls, Rt Hon Sir Terence Etherton; Lord Justice Irwin; and Lord Justice Singh concluded that it was ‘irrational and therefore unlawful’ for the Secretary of State for International Trade to have made the export licensing decisions without making at least some assessment as to whether or not past incidents amounted to breaches of international humanitarian law and, if they did, whether measures subsequently taken meant there was no longer a “clear risk” that future exports might do so. The judges said, “The question whether there was an historic pattern of breaches of international humanitarian law … was a question which required to be faced.”
The government has until the 27th of June to decide whether to ask for permission to appeal to the Supreme Court and, if so, whether to ask for a temporary suspension of the judgment so that the export licensing decisions do not need to be re-taken.