Britain has licensed the export of more than $4.7 billion, or nearly $6 billion, worth of arms to the Saudi government since its campaign in Yemen started in early 2015, the BBC reported, including fighter jets and precision-guided bombs.
News of the British court ruling and the government’s response was welcomed by rights organizations who have been pressing for greater Saudi accountability over the killings and destruction in Yemen, the Arab world’s poorest country, and who have been urging peace talks under the auspices of the United Nations.
“We celebrate this historic verdict,” The Campaign Against Arms Trade, which brought the appeal to the British court said in a statement. “But these weapons sales should never have been licensed in the first place.”
Others hoped the ruling would spark broader change in Saudi Arabia’s actions.
“Too many innocent civilians have died in Yemen, and today’s landmark ruling must increase the pressure for all parties to get behind the U.N. peace process and bring this devastating conflict to an end,” said Mary Robinson, the former president of Ireland and former United Nations High Commissioner for human rights, who is now chairwoman of The Elders, a London-based rights group founded by Nelson Mandela.
“Saudi Arabia’s own interests would better be served by showing that it can bring peace to its neighbor, rather than continuing with a war that causes so much civilian suffering,” Ms. Robinson said in a statement.
Emily Thornberry, who speaks for the opposition Labour Party on foreign affairs, said that she would demand a parliamentary or independent public inquiry into British arms sales to Saudi Arabia, Sky News reported.
“And immediately, the government must suspend all arms sales for use in the conflict in Yemen until there has been a full and independent, U.N.-led investigation into all breaches of international law,” she said.