Alyn Smith MP: Halt Arms Sales or Be Complicit in Breaching Humanitarian Law


Categories: Foreign Affairs, News


The SNP has demanded the UK government reverse its decision to resume selling arms to Saudi Arabia – despite concluding they could be used to commit war crimes.

In a written statement, the trade secretary, Liz Truss, said sales would restart after an official review concluded there had been only “isolated incidents” of airstrikes in Yemen that breached humanitarian law. The decision comes just over a year after the Court of Appeal ruled the UK government’s actions in selling arms to Saudi Arabia were “unlawful”

According to UN data, about 14 million people – half of Yemen’s population – are currently at risk of famine – a situation compounded by Saudi border blockades. The Saudi-led coalition has received British training on naval tactics that could be used for blockading Yemen in an embargo which UN experts have described as ‘unlawful’ and violating international humanitarian law.

Twenty two million Yemenis (79% of the population) are in need of aid and protection. Since the war in Yemen began in 2015, the UK government’s arms sales to Saudi Arabia have totalled more than £4.6 billion.

SNP Shadow Foreign Affairs Secretary Alyn Smith MP said:

“Since the war in Yemen began, the UK government has repeatedly and disgracefully put profits before peace.

“They have prioritised billions of pounds in arms sales over human lives as evidence mounts of blatant violations of international humanitarian law by the Saudi-led coalition.

“Roughly 14 million people in Yemen are on the brink of famine and 22 million desperately need aid and protection, and the UN holds Saudi air strikes responsible for at least 10,852 civilian deaths. Rather than resuming arms sales to the aggressors, the UK government should step up efforts to end this devastating conflict.

“Last year, a Westminster committee report concluded that the government’s decision to sell arms to Saudi Arabia was ‘unconscionable’ and ‘on the wrong side of the law.’ That was followed by a Court of Appeal ruling that found that the UK government’s actions in selling arms to Saudi Arabia were ‘unlawful.’

“Germany, Canada, Spain, Finland, Denmark, the US Congress and EU Parliament have all taken a principled stance against further arms exports to the Saudi regime. Rather than being on the wrong side of history, the UK government should get its act together and help bring this war to an end.

“The SNP will continue to challenge the UK government in Westminster over this catastrophic failure of foreign policy and will hold it to account over its active role in this war.”


Britain to resume sale of arms to Saudi Arabia despite Yemen fears: