The UK licensed £648 million ($810 million) worth of arms to Saudi Arabia during the six months that followed the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
The sale, uncovered in newly released arms export statistics, was carried out at the time when the UK government said that it condemned the murder of the Washington Post journalist “in the strongest possible terms”. Both the US intelligence and the UN have concluded that the Crown Prince Mohamed Bin Salman is responsible for his killing.
These arms include £551 million ($686 million) worth of ML4 licences (Grenades, bombs, missiles and countermeasures). Many of these are likely to be used in the ongoing Saudi-led bombardment of Yemen.
The findings raise further questions over UK’s arms sales to Saudi Arabia, which have come under sharp criticism over the kingdom’s handling of the war in Yemen. Riyadh has been accused of committing war crimes using British made weapons.
Last month the Court of Appeal found that it was “irrational and therefore unlawful” for the government to have allowed the sale of UK-made arms to Saudi forces for use in Yemen without making at least some assessment as to whether or not past incidents amounted to breaches of International Humanitarian Law. The Government was ordered not to approve any new licences and to retake the decisions on extant licences in a lawful manner.
Andrew Smith of Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT), which has led the legal battle in UK courts against the government, said: “The Foreign Secretary said that it condemned the murder of Jamal Khashoggi in the strongest terms, but, in the months that followed, it was business as usual for the Government and the arms companies. At the same time as the Saudi regime was covering up his murder Ministers were approving hundreds of millions of pounds worth of arms sales.”
“UK-made weapons have played a devastating role in the bombing of Yemen. Tens of thousands of people have been killed and vital infrastructure has been destroyed. This destruction wouldn’t have been possible without the complicity and support of arms dealing governments like the UK.”
The British government has been accused of prioritising military exports over civilian lives, after minsters requested courts to set aside a landmark legal ruling which concluded that UK arms exports to Saudi is unlawful. According to the group leading the charge against UK arms sale to Saudi Arabia; the Campaign Against Arms Trade, the challenge to last month’s judgement was made through an application for a stay, which is a legal process that seeks to halt any further legal proceeding related to the case.
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