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Government refuses to publish evidence on its decision to resume arms sales to Saudi Arabia

THE government continued to dodge requests today that it publish evidence on its decision to resume arms sales to Saudi Arabia despite growing evidence of use on Yemeni civilians.

Ministers scrutinised the government’s decision in Parliament following an urgent question from Labour’s shadow international trade secretary Emily Thornberry.

International Trade Secretary Liz Truss announced the decision in a written statement last week, but did not appear in Commons to defend her actions.

The government concluded that any violations of international humanitarian law (IHL) committed by the Saudi coalition were ”isolated incidents,” despite the fact that hundreds of attacks on residential areas, schools, hospitals, civilian gatherings and agricultural land and facilities have been documented.

Since the bombing of Yemen began in March 2015, Britain has licensed £5.3 billion worth of arms to the Saudi regime.

In June 2019, the Court of Appeal ruled that the government had acted unlawfully when it licensed the sale of British-made arms to Saudi forces without making an assessment on its uses amounted to breaches of IHL.

Addressing International Trade Minister Greg Hands in Parliament, Ms Thornberry said: “It would help all of us to understand the government’s decision if they would agree to publish the full assessment that underpinned it including the analysis of each so-called isolated incident.

“If the minister believes this decision is not just moral and lawful but correct then surely he has nothing to fear from publishing that assessment and letting us all decide for ourselves?”

Mr Hands said that the confidentiality of intelligence meant the government would not publish the assessments.

Campaign Against Arms Trade’s (CAAT) Andrew Smith called the arms sales “illegal, immoral and deadly,” and said that the decision to resume them “can only prolong the war and increase the bloodshed.”

“The government is always telling us how robust its arms export controls are, but nothing could be further from the truth,” he said.

“This brutal bombardment is only possible because of the complicity and support of arms dealing governments like the UK.”

Mr Smith also criticised the government’s claim that possible breaches of IHL were “isolated incidents” as he warned that there have been hundreds of them.

“These are not statistics, they are people’s lives,” he said. “Saudi forces have bombed schools, hospitals and homes. 

“They have turned gatherings into massacres and inflicted a humanitarian crisis on Yemen.”

CAAT is considering legal options to challenge the decision.

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