After Sanctioning Saudi Officials For Murder, UK Resume Arms Sale to the Kingdom


Within a day of sanctioning 20 Saudi officials for murdering the journalist Jamal Khashoggi under its own version of the US’s Magnitsky Act which authorizes the government to prevent sanctioned individuals from entering the country, channeling money through the UK banks, or profiting from the British economy the UK government resumed selling arms to Saudi Arabia.

In a written statement to parliament on July 7, secretary of state for international trade Liz Truss said ministers had reviewed how arms export licences are granted following an order to comply with a court ruling suspending the sales in June 2019. Truss concluded that there is no clear risk that military equipment sold to Saudi Arabia might be used in serious human rights abuses and so the trade can resume.

“The incidents which have been assessed to be possible violations of international humanitarian law occurred at different times, in different circumstances and for different reasons. The conclusion is that these are isolated incidents.”

Liz Truss, Secretary of State for international Trade, UK

The government was forced to suspend the issuing of export licenses in June last year when the Court of Appeal ruled it had acted unlawfully because ministers had not properly assessed the risk of civilian casualties in Yemen. According to SIPRI, Saudi Arabia is the world’s largest importer in 2015-19. The UK makes up a 13% of Saudi Arabia’s military imports. The other key arms exporters to the kingdom are US (73%) and France (3.6%).

Five years ago in March 2015, a Saudi-led coalition launched military operations in Yemen to drive out the Houthi rebels. Since then the Human rights organisation and the United Nations have accused the Saudi-led forces of violating international humanitarian laws. Though the Saudi-led coalition has denied war crime allegations.

As per the US-based Armed Conflict Location and Event Data Project (ACLED) it had recorded more than 100,000 fatalities, including 12,000 civilians killed in direct attacks and 80% of Yemenis are thought to be in need of humanitarian assistance.

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