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UK High Court to consider legality of resuming arms sales to Saudi Arabia

Rescuers remove debris at the site of Saudi-led airstrikes in Sana’a, Yemen, on January 18, 2022. (Photo by Reuters)

The UK High Court of Justice is set to consider the legality of the British government's decision to resume arms sales to Saudi Arabia that could be used in the war against Yemen, as Riyadh’s aggression against the impoverished Arab country continues unabated.

The court is due to start considering the evidence at a hearing in London on Tuesday, after the non-governmental organization, Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT) filed a lawsuit against the British government over the resumption of arms sales to Saudi Arabia.  

CAAT accused London of contributing to the violation of international law and causing the world's largest humanitarian disaster, which has claimed tens of thousands of lives.

The judicial review is expected to last until the end of the week.

The legal action was brought forward after Britain announced that it would resume arms sales to Saudi Arabia in July 2020, despite continued Saudi airstrikes across Yemen.

Ahead of the hearing, CAAT's media coordinator Emily Apple accused London of caring "more about profit than war crimes and the deaths of civilians".

The UK-based NGO won a similar case against the government in 2019, when an appeal court ruled that Britain's license to sell arms to Saudi Arabia was illegal.

It said the government had failed to assess whether the arms sales violated its commitments to human rights and ordered it to "reconsider the matter".

The United States and Britain are the main suppliers of weapons to Saudi Arabia, selling tens of billions of dollars of arms to the leaders in Riyadh.

The oil-rich Middle Eastern country has historically played an outsized role in importing military armaments from the US and the UK.

Riyadh purchased a huge chunk of all the weapons sold by the two countries between 2017 and 2021, according to peace groups monitoring international arms deals.

Saudi Arabia, in collaboration with its Arab allies and with arms and logistics support from the US and other Western states, launched the devastating war on Yemen in March 2015.

The objective was to crush the Ansarullah resistance movement, which has been running state affairs in the absence of a functional government in Yemen, and reinstall the Riyadh-friendly unpopular regime of Abd Rabbuh Mansour Hadi.

While the Saudi-led coalition has failed to achieve any of its objectives, the war has killed hundreds of thousands of Yemenis and spawned the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.

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