The Belfast Telegraph reports that the coalition government licensed more than £4bn worth of arms to Saudi Arabia. Both British fighter jets and bombs are being deployed by Saudi Arabia against targets in Yemen.
One instance was covered by the Guardian. An investigation into the 23 September Saudi missile strike on a ceramics factory (above) in the Yemeni village of Matna records that remnants found were identified as coming from a PGM-500 Hakim air-launched cruise missile, supplied to Saudi Arabia in the mid-1990s and made by the UK firm Marconi.
Amnesty said the strike, which killed one person, appeared to violate international law and contradicted British government claims that any use of UK weapons by Saudi-led forces was done lawfully. There had apparently been no investigation into what happened, it added.
According to a report by Amnesty International and Saferworld, drawn up by Professor Philippe Sands QC, Professor Andrew Clapham and Blinne Ni Ghralaigh of Matrix Chambers, .the UK has issued more than 100 arms export licences worth more than £1.75 billion to Saudi Arabia since March, when its air force began attacking Houthi rebels trying to overthrow the Yemeni government.
In the period covered by the report, more than 5,800 people have been killed, according to the United Nations, while tens of thousands have been injured and 2.5 million forced to flee their homes to escape the fighting.
The report concluded that any permit for the transfer of weapons to Saudi Arabia “where such weapons are capable of being used in the conflict in Yemen” and there was no restriction on their end use “would constitute a breach by the UK of its obligations under domestic, European and international law”.
It said the Government could be deemed to have “actual knowledge … of the use by Saudi Arabia of weapons, including UK-supplied weapons, in attacks directed against civilians and civilians objects, in violation of international law” since at least May 2015.
A Government spokeswoman said: “The UK is satisfied that we are not in breach of our international obligations. We operate one of the most rigorous and transparent arms export control regimes in the world, with each licence application assessed on a case-by-case basis, taking account of all relevant information, to ensure compliance with our legal obligations. No licence is issued if it does not meet these requirements. We regularly raise with Saudi Arabian-led coalition and the Houthis, the need to comply with international humanitarian law in Yemen. We monitor the situation carefully and have offered the Saudi authorities advice and training in this area.”