The UK government has decided to resume arms sales to Saudi Arabia despite concerns that the arms could be used to commit human rights abuses and war crimes in Yemen.
The government has said that possible war crimes committed by Saudi Arabia are “isolated incidents”.
This comes just a day after the UK sanctioned Saud al-Qahtani, a close aide to the Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, over the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
The UK’s new Magnitsky sanctions target individuals accused of human rights abuses around the world.
Liz Truss, International Trade Secretary said: “While some credible incidents of concern related to Saudi forces’ conduct had been classified as ‘possible’ breaches of International Humanitarian Law (IHL), the British government viewed these as ‘isolated incidents’.
“The incidents which have been assessed to be possible violations of IHL occurred at different times, in different circumstances and for different reasons.
“The undertaking that my predecessor gave to the Court ï¿½ that we would not grant any new licences for the export of arms or military equipment to Saudi Arabia for possible use in Yemen ï¿½ falls away.”
Yemen has been a target of the Saudi-led coalition since 2015 when Riyadh started bombing the Shia Houthis, who control large swathes of territory and are fighting an internationally recognised government.
Branding the UK government’s approach as “deeply cynical”, human rights groups around the world said the policy was “almost beyond comprehension”.
Eighty per cent of the Yemenis are in urgent need of humanitarian assistance and more than 100,000 lives have been lost in the conflict.
The Unicef has said “the crisis is of cataclysmic proportions”.
Since 2015, when the bombing of Yemen by Saudi Arabia started, the has issued export licences worth 5.3 billion pounds, including 2.5 billion pounds of licences related to bombs, missiles and other types of ordinance.