Bombs made in Scotland will be a key issue in a landmark legal case this week on the legality of UK arms sales to Saudi Arabia.
Over three days in London the High Court will hear a judicial review into UK weapons exports to Saudi Arabia for use in Yemen’s war.
The legal challenge against the UK Government is by Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT) who were granted a review by Mr Justice Gilbart last June in an historic decision at the High Court.
The review – a type of court proceeding to review the lawfulness of a decision or action by a public body – will take place on Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday.
Although a decision could technically be announced on the final day The Ferret understands it is more likely to be March before the two judges – not yet named – make a ruling.
Both CAAT and the UK Government have the right to appeal the decision to the Supreme Court, if they lose.
If CAAT wins and the UK Government appeals, it will be up to the court to decide whether arms sales are suspended immediately.
CAAT will be represented by law firm Leigh Day and Martin Chamberlain QC while The Ferret understands that the UK Government’s case will be argued by James Eadie QC.
Amnesty International will make a submission to the court along with Human Rights Watch, Rights Watch (UK) and Oxfam. Amnesty International said that UK domestic law, the global Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) and rules of customary international law require the government to ensure that its arms transfers do not aid the commission of war crimes by Saudi Arabia.
James Lynch, Head of Arms Control and Human Rights at Amnesty International, said: “It is a sad state of affairs that NGOs have to go to court in an effort to force the UK government to do the right thing for the people of Yemen.”
In December 2015, eminent international law experts concluded that the UK was breaking national, EU and international law and policy by supplying weapons to Saudi Arabia.
The lawyers were Professor Philippe Sands QC, Professor Andrew Clapham and Blinne Ní Ghrálaigh of Matrix Chambers. Airstrikes with smart bombs made by US arms giant Raytheon in Scotland are a key part of CAAT’s case.
Raytheon has a factory in Glenrothes, Fife, where laser guidance systems for Paveway IV missiles are produced. Last year The Ferret exposed links between Raytheon’s smart bombs and alleged war crimes in Yemen.
Remnants of a bomb found after a chamber of commerce was bombed in Sanaa city, revealed it was a “Mk-82 500-lb bomb with a UK manufactured Paveway laser guidance kit”.
Markings on the fragments revealed that Raytheon produced the bomb in the UK at the Pinnacle Hill Industrial Estate in Kelso, Scotland. CAAT said that a range of international organisations including a UN Panel of Experts, the European Parliament, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, have condemned Saudi airstrikes as unlawful.
The alleged violations of international humanitarian law (IHL) found include numerous attacks on civilians in a war that’s killed more than 10,000 people.
Andrew Smith of Campaign Against Arms Trade said: “UK arms export law is very clear in saying that if there is a clear risk of a weapon being used in a serious violation of international humanitarian law then an export should not go ahead.
By any common sense understanding this should end arms sales to Saudi Arabia. How much more serious does the situation in Yemen have to get before the UK finally stops arming the Saudi regime?”
Raytheon has profited from the humanitarian catastrophe every step of the way. If arms export controls mean anything whatsoever then the government must follow its own rules and stop arming Saudi Arabia.”
Raytheon declined to comment. A UK Government spokesperson said: “The government takes its arms export responsibilities very seriously and operates one of the most robust export control regimes in the world.
“All export licence applications are assessed on a case-by-case basis against the Consolidated EU and National Arms Export Licensing Criteria, taking account of all relevant factors at the time of the application.
“The key test for assessing licence applications for military exports to Saudi Arabia is whether there is a clear risk that the proposed exports might be used in the commission of a serious violation of international humanitarian law. The situation in Yemen is kept under careful and continual review.”
Last week the UN warned the UK that it may have been complicit in war crimes. A panel of experts issued a new report saying they had investigated 10 coalition airstrikes between March and October that killed at least 292 civilians, including some 100 women and children.
In eight of the 10 investigations, the panel found no evidence that the airstrikes had targeted legitimate military objectives,” the experts wrote in a 63-page report presented to the Security Council.
They added: “For all 10 investigations, the panel considers it almost certain that the coalition did not meet international humanitarian law requirements of proportionality and precautions in attack. The panel considers that some of the attacks may amount to war crimes.”
But Saudi UN Ambassador Abdallah Al-Mouallimi said the accusations were unfounded.
He was reported as saying that the coalition had been “exercising maximum restraint and rigorous rules of engagement,” and there had been transparent investigations.
Meanwhile, a new report by Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) on Yemen’s third-largest city Taiz, says the medical charity has treated 10,700 wounded people.
In the last six months of 2016, one quarter of people injured in Taiz were women and children
MSF doctors have treated 2500 children on the point of starvation and the report added that health services have collapsed in Taiz, a city the size of Edinburgh.
Karline Kleijer, MSF’s Emergency Manager for Yemen, said: “The desperate situation in Taiz exemplifies what is happening in Yemen as a whole. The warring parties in
Taiz regularly demonstrate a lack of respect for the protection of civilians, health facilities, health-care workers and patients.
Our patients on both sides of the frontlines report being injured by shelling while preparing lunch in their kitchens, wounded by airstrikes while walking to their fields, maimed by landmines while herding their livestock, and shot at by snipers in the streets outside their homes.”
In an incident in Warton, Lancashire, two men were released on bail pending charges after breaking into BAE’s Warton site. They were arrested at BAE Systems’ airbase while attempting to disarm fighter jets due to be delivered to the Royal Saudi Airforce for attacks on Yemen.
On release, the Reverend Daniel Woodhouse and Sam Walton said: “BAE security found us just meters from war planes bound for Saudi Arabia. We’re gutted that we couldn’t disarm a plane and stop it being used to carry out airstrikes in Yemen. We could have saved lives by preventing Saudi war crimes in Yemen.”
An abridged version of this story appeared in the Sunday Mail on 5th February 2017.