Arms sales to Saudi Arabia may have continued – and even increased – after they were ruled unlawful, MPs have been told, reported the Mirror. More than 5,000 deliveries of weapons to Saudi Arabia were made under “open licences” in 2019, despite the UK government agreeing to pause new export licences to the kingdom just over a year ago following a court of appeal ruling that UK arms export to Riyadh was unlawful.
Details of the continued sale of arms to the Saudis following the court of appeals decision was mentioned by Roy Isbister of campaign group Saferworld. Isbister, who leads Saferworld’s Arms Units, who told the International Trade Committee that “In 2019 – and half of that year was after the decision following the court of appeal – there were 5,152 deliveries against open licences to Saudi Arabia, which is an 18% increase on the average of the last four years.”
Exposing what are thought to be legal loopholes, Dr Perlo-Freeman is reported in the Mirror saying that the UK’s export control system “seems to be designed to allow exports to proceed in almost any circumstances the government, for political or economic reasons, wishes it to do so.”
He added: “We’ve seen repeated instances of hospitals, schools, market places, residential areas, agricultural land and production facilities being bombed. Very often the same facilities being bombed repeated times.”
“And against this forest of a huge humanitarian catastrophe, the government has chosen to see a few isolated trees.”
In response to the allegations a spokesperson for Number 10 is reported saying that “The Government takes its export responsibilities seriously and assesses all export licences in accordance with strict licensing criteria. We will not issue any export licences where to do so would be inconsistent with these criteria.”
Two months ago the UK government announced that it will resume its controversial arms sales to Saudi Arabia, with Britain’s Defence Minister Ben Wallace welcoming the news saying that Number 10 is keen to boost defence relations with the Gulf kingdom.