By KJ Sankara
UK arms sales to Saudi Arabia increase by 50% since the start of the Yemen war.
In June 2019, the Court of Appeal ruled that these licences were approved illegally.
The war has created the worst humanitarian crisis in the world.
Government statistics show that the UK Government licensed £5,335,852,492 worth of arms to Saudi Arabian regime in the first four years of its ongoing bombardment of Yemen (26 March 2015 – 25 March 2019).
This is an increase of almost 50% on the value of arms licensed in the four years preceding the war, which amounted to £3,572,049,751 worth of arms (26 March 2011 – 25 March – 2015).
According to the United Nations, the bombing has created the worst humanitarian crisis in the world. UK-made fighter jets, bombs and missiles have all played a central role in the bombing.
Since the bombing of Yemen began in March 2015, the UK has licensed £5.3 billion worth of arms to the Saudi regime, including:
£2.7 billion worth of ML10 licences (Aircraft, helicopters, drones)
£2.5 billion worth of ML4 licences (Grenades, bombs, missiles, countermeasures)
In reality the figures are likely to be a great deal higher, with most bombs and missiles being licensed via the opaque and secretive Open Licence system.
In June 2019 the Government was ordered not to approve any new licences and to retake the decisions on extant licences in a lawful manner.
Since then former Secretary of State for International Trade Liz Truss has admitted multiple breaches of the ruling.
Andrew Smith of Campaign Against Arms Trade said: “The bombing has created a terrible humanitarian crisis in Yemen, but the arms companies have treated it as a business opportunity.
“This war would not be possible without the complicity and support of arms dealing governments like the UK and US, who have pulled out all stops to maximise arms sales irrespective of the human cost.
“Regardless of who wins the election next month, there must be a fundamental re-evaluation of the UK’s relationship with the brutal Saudi regime.
“It is long past time for Westminster to end the arms sales and stop its uncritical support for the dictatorship.”
A Labour Party spokesperson said: “The hike in arms sales is inevitable because of the government’s illegal policy of arming the Saudi-led coalition’s war in Yemen.
“The increase is also an underestimate as the government does not publish the value or quantity of arms exported under its ‘open licences’.
“Labour will end arms sales to Saudi Arabia pending an independent investigation into hundreds of allegations of Riyadh’s targeting of civilians and we will reform the UK’s arms export controls to ensure that we will never sell arms to those who may use them to violate international humanitarian law.”