Thursday, 27 June 2019

Campaign response – British Bombs, Stop supporting war in Yemen/Stop Arming Saudi Arabia

As the Humanitarian Crisis in Yemen and relations between Yemen and Saudi Arabia continue to worsen, many concerned constituents have written to me to express their concerns over British arm sales to Saudi Arabia.

The Government has repeatedly assured parliamentarians that it is seriously concerned about the humanitarian situation in Yemen. Since the start of the crisis in 2015 our humanitarian commitment to Yemen now stands at £770m.

Ultimately the only lasting solution to peace in Yemen is through a political settlement. The UK Government is actively supporting the UN Special Envoy for Yemen in his efforts to bring the various parties on both sides around the table to find a way forward.

On the issue of arm sales, the Government keeps export licensing for Saudi Arabia under constant review, including in light of military action by the Saudi-led Coalition in Yemen.

The key test for the Government’s continued military exports to Saudi Arabia in relation to International Humanitarian Law (IHL) is whether there is a clear risk that those items might be used in the commission of a serious violation of IHL.

As set out in the Consolidated EU and National Arms Export Licensing Criteria, the Government will not issue an export licence where we assess that the items might be used in the commission of a serious violation of international humanitarian law. A licence would not be granted if to do so was inconsistent with the criteria.

Following a ruling by the Court of Appeal on this matter last week, the UK Government has now said it will now stop granting any new licences for weapons exports to Saudi Arabia or coalition partners involved militarily in Yemen.

A Government spokesperson also said: "Extant licences - those granted before this judgment - are not immediately affected by the Court Order. Exporters may continue to export under extant licences. But we are required by the court to reconsider the decisions we made about those licences."

The Government needs to ensure that this review process is carried out rigorously and thoroughly, fully considering the actions of Saudi Arabia in Yemen and in view of the complexities of the crisis, and I will seek my view and the views of constituents about this matter clear to the International Trade Secretary when I next see him.