UK licensed £3.3bn in arms to Saudi in first 12 months of Yemen bombing - NGO

Britain licensed billions in arms sales to its theocratic ally Saudi Arabia in the first year of the war in Yemen despite concerns over civilian deaths, according to Campaign Against the Arms Trade (CAAT).

Drawing on newly released figures from the UK Trade & Investment (UKTI) department, CAAT argues that despite repeated warnings between April 2015 and March 2016, the government has done nothing to stop the trade.

The organization calculates that exports to the Saudi regime include £2.2 billion ($2.9 billion) of ‘ML10’ licences for military aircraft, £1.1 billion of ‘ML4’ licences for munitions such as missiles and bombs and a further £430,000 of ‘ML6’ licences for armored vehicles including tanks.

CAAT maintains that up to 6,000 people have died in Yemen with up to 80 percent of the population now in need of aid.

CAAT’s Andrew Smith said in a statement on the group’s website: “The UN has accused Saudi Arabian forces of violating international humanitarian law, the European Parliament has called for an arms embargo, but, as usual when it comes to Saudi Arabia, the UK government has focused on arms sales.

The NGO also pointed out that the between January and February the practice of selling arms to the regime had been condemned twice by UK MPs.

The government’s claims that international humanitarian law had been not breached by the Saudi regime recently came into question after it was forced to withdraw a number of statements on the issue.

The retraction appears to have been timed for the final day of Parliament before the summer recess, and was in written form – on a day when tens of last-minute responses to political questions are poured out by ministers.

However, the Foreign Office maintained that the statements, made over a period of months by six different ministers, had not been intended to mislead MPs.