July 10 (UPI) -- Britain's High Court ruled Monday that the sales of arms to Saudi Arabia are lawful.
Saudi Arabia is the world's largest purchaser of British-made weapons and has bought $3.86 billion of armaments from British industries in the past two years. It has purchased, among other items, Typhoon and Tornado fighter planes, and precision-guided bombs.
The court ruled in a case brought by the non-governmental organization Campaign Against the Arms Trade. The group called for judicial review of the government's decision to continue granting weapons-export licenses to Saudi Arabia despite its involvement in the Yemen civil war. The court handed down a closed judgement; although CAAT can appeal the decision, much of the testimony and evidence was presented in secret for national security reasons.
Lord Justice Burnett, one of the judges who heard the case, said, "We have concluded that the material decisions of the secretary of state were lawful. We therefore dismiss the claim."
CAAT argued that British and European Union rules state that export licenses cannot be granted if there is a "clear risk" the equipment could be used to violate humanitarian law. The war in Yemen, in which Saudi Arabia leads a bloc of Arab countries fighting Houthi rebels, has cost thousands of lives and has led to shortages of food and medicine in Yemen.
"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. Every day we are hearing new and horrifying stories about the humanitarian crisis that has been inflicted on the people of Yemen. Thousands have been killed while vital and lifesaving infrastructure has been destroyed," CAAT spokesman Andrew Smith said after the ruling.