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Sun, 29 November 2020

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Arms Trade Campaigners Have Condemned Liz Truss For Allowing Hundreds Of New Saudi Arms Deals To Go Ahead

Arms Trade Campaigners Have Condemned Liz Truss For Allowing Hundreds Of New Saudi Arms Deals To Go Ahead

Liz Truss has come under fire for the decision to resume sales to Saudi Arabia

3 min read

Anti-arms trade campaigners have hit out at Liz Truss for the "immoral" decision to process over 500 applications for arms sales to Saudi Arabia since July.

The Department for International Trade has come under fire after a senior official told MPs they had processed a "backlog" of hundreds of arms sales to the region in the last four months.

Sales had been halted in June 2019 after a High Court case, brought by the Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT), ruled British exports to Saudi Arabia were unlawful because ministers had failed to properly assess the risk that the weapons would be used against civilians in Yemen.

But the moratorium was lifted in July of this year after International Trade Secretary Liz Truss announced a government review had concluded the potential for British-made weapons to be used to commit war crimes in the conflict was "isolated" and that there was little evidence of a "pattern" of Saudi airstrikes targeting civilians.

Speaking at the time, Ms Truss said: "The government will now begin the process of clearing the backlog of licence applications for Saudi Arabia and its coalition partners that has built up since June last year."

Facing MPs at the Committee on Arms Exports Controls on Tuesday, Ms Amanda Brooks, director general of trade relations and implementation at the department, revealed over 500 cases from that backlog had already been processed.

But Ms Brooks refused to say what percentage of the applications had been approved for sale, while a source from the department said the figures would only be released in January next year.

Details of the extent of the backlog in potential sales come just months after CAAT filed for a judicial review of the government's decision to resume sales.

Responding to the reports, Andrew Smith of CAAT, said the decision would have been "music to the ears of arms dealers".

"The size of the backlog confirms the scale of the business and how much it will be worth to them.

"The sales being approved today could be used to fuel abuses for years to come. The humanitarian crisis in Yemen is only getting worse, but Liz Truss and her colleages are more concerned with boosting arms company profits that they are with the rights and lives of people in Yemen.

"Every single one of the licenses that they have approved is a sign of political and military support for the Saudi regime and the wider coalition that is responsible for the bombardment.

He added: "These sales are immoral, and we believe that the decision to renew them was illegal, which is why we have filed a case to challenge it."

A Government spokesperson said: "The UK operates one of the most comprehensive export control regimes in the world.

"The Government takes its export responsibilities seriously and rigorously assesses all export licences in accordance with strict licensing criteria. We will not issue any export licences where to do so would be inconsistent with these criteria."

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