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    Campaigners from Amnesty International carry model missiles to Downing Street in central London on March 18, 2016 to highlight the export of UK-manufactered arms to Saudi Arabia

    'On the Verge of Tears': Desperate Yemenis Distraught at UK Stance on Saudi Arms

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    The UK High Court verdict that the UK's arms sales to Saudi Arabia are lawful is very disappointing for anti-arms trade activists, but campaigners are determined to take their case to an appeal court, Joe Lo of the Campaign Against Arms Trade told Radio Sputnik.

    The High Court in London has ruled that the UK government is not breaking the law by continuing to sell arms to Saudi Arabia, which is waging a bloody intervention in neighboring Yemen that has killed thousands of civilians.

    The case was brought by the Campaign Against the Arms Trade pressure group, which argued that UK arms should not be sold to Saudi Arabia as there was a clear risk of the arms being used to target civilians and violate human rights in war-torn Yemen.

    However, on Monday the court ruled that the decision not to suspend or cancel arms sales to Saudi Arabia was "not irrational or unlawful." 

    The UK has licensed the sale of more than £3.3 billion ($4.3 billion) in arms sales to Riyadh since it launched a military intervention in Yemen in March 2015. The sales include Tornado and Typhoon jets and £1.1 billion (US$1.42 billion) worth of missiles and bombs.

    Riyadh launched the military campaign after the ouster of President Abdrabbuh Mansur Hadi by Houthi rebels. Since the beginning of the intervention, more than 10,000 civilians have died in the country, an estimated two million children are starving and over 200,000 people have been infected with cholera in the world's worst outbreak.

    Joe Lo, a researcher at Campaign Against Arms Trade who attended the court hearing, told Radio Sputnik that campaigners were left disappointed and angry by the verdict but are determined to continue their fight to stop arms sales to Saudi Arabia.

    "We're very disappointed on behalf of the people of Yemen, who have been suffering two years of bombardment and 10,000 have been killed. I spoke to a Yemeni woman who was passing by who seemed on the verge of tears because she was so upset at this decision and what it says to Saudi Arabia and the UK government," Lo said.

    "We are all very disappointed but determined to keep fighting this ruling."

    The court case was the culmination of an 18-month legal campaign that had begun in March 2015, when the Saudi bombing of Yemen began.

    "We obviously disagree with their decision. The law says that if there's a clear risk of serious violations of international humanitarian law then arms sales to that country should not go ahead, and I think that's clearly the case. I think everyone can see that's the case here," Lo said.

    For the court to order the suspension of arms sales to Saudi Arabia, it had to establish that weapons sales to Saudi Arabia breached the government's own policy, which is that arms licenses should be denied when there is "a clear risk that the arms might be used in the commission of a serious violation of International Humanitarian Law."

    Having examined both open and closed sources, the judges decided that the UK Secretary of State for International Trade acted lawfully in granting the licenses because the UK Ministry of Defense has access to greater information that appeared to demonstrate that "Saudi Arabia has been, and remains, genuinely committed to compliance with International Humanitarian Law."

    However, the claimant disputes that, arguing that the death toll and dire humanitarian situation in Yemen demonstrate otherwise.

    "It's not just that there's a risk of serious violations of international humanitarian law, there have been lots and lots of incidences of this. Whole cities like Sa'dah were declared a military target, 140 people were killed at a funeral in Sana'a, hospitals, mosques, roads, ports, markets were all attacked. So, we strongly disagree with this judgment and we will be taking action to challenge it," Lo said.

    "One example is the 'double-tap' bombing of a funeral in Sana'a which killed 140 people. A 'double-tap' bombing is where you bomb it once and wait for the first responders to come in and then you bomb it again. There's no military rationale for that, no moral reasoning for that, it's just willful death and destruction caused by the Saudis and this judgment today sends a green light to the Saudi regime for what they’ve been doing and to continue going on in the way they have been and for the UK government to keep supporting that."

    A poll of 2,000 UK adults conducted by Opinium for Campaign Against Arms Trade and published February 5 found that 62 percent of UK adults oppose arms exports to Saudi Arabia, with only 11 percent supporting them.

    "We've done polling which shows that a majority of British people oppose arms exports to Saudi Arabia," Lo said.

    "A majority of Conservative supporters support us, even though the Conservatives are the only party apart from the DUP who support arms exports to Saudi Arabia. Every other opposition party who has an MP – that's Labour, the SNP, Greens, Plaid Cymru – they all oppose arms exports to Saudi Arabia. So, there's a big consensus among political parties, the public and civil society. [Since] we took this case, we've had the support of Amnesty, Human Rights Watch and other NGO's. So, there's definitely a consensus among the British public that arms exports to Saudi Arabia are wrong, they're definitely immoral and we also say that they're illegal too."

    Campaign Against Arms Trade intends to appeal the court decision and feels it still has a "very strong case."

    "If the [appeal] court goes on to say that this was legal, then we need to challenge the law and try and get it changed. The situation on the ground in Yemen at the moment clearly presents a risk of serious violation of international humanitarian law, so we feel like we've got a strong case and we'll continue to make it to the higher court if we are given leave to do so."

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    court case, foreign intervention, court decision, Saudi bombing campaign, arms trade, weapons, arms, Yemen civil war, United Kingdom, Saudi Arabia, Yemen
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