High Court grants Campaign Against Arms Trade permission to judicially review licensing of arms exports to Saudi Arabia

01 Jul 2016

Conor McCarthy of Monckton Chambers, led by Martin Chamberlain QC and instructed by Leigh Day, is acting on behalf of the Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT) in its challenge to the decision by the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills to continue to grant licences for the export of military equipment to Saudi Arabia. On the 30th June, the High Court gave CAAT permission to judicially review the government in respect of this decision taken by the Secretary of State.  CAAT claims that over 6000 people have been killed in the ongoing bombardment of Yemen and that the export of arms continues despite serious allegations and compelling evidence that there is a clear risk Saudi forces might use the equipment to violate international humanitarian law (IHL).

Numerous sources, including the UN Security Council-appointed Panel of Experts on Yemen and the UN Secretary General, have made findings that Saudi Arabia has perpetrated violations of international humanitarian law in Yemen.

In its challenge, the Claimant relies, inter alia, on the Consolidated EU and National Arms Export Licensing Criteria which prohibits the export of arms or military equipment where there exists a “clear risk” that the arms or military equipment “might” be used in violation of IHL. The Secretary of State does not expressly reject the findings of the UN Panel of Experts or others but asserts that he has access to secret information which enables him to conclude that there is no “clear risk” that Saudi Arabia might use the weapons in violations of IHL in the Yemen conflict.  This information has not been disclosed by the Sec of State who indicates that he may apply for public interest immunity or for a Closed Material Procedure under the Justice and Security Act 2013.

The case has been listed for a three day hearing, before a full Divisional Court, by February 2017.