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Advocating for better protection for conflict-affected populations: legal action against UK arms sales to Saudi Arabia for use in the Yemen conflict

Briefing/policy paper

Written by Gemma Davies

Briefing/policy paper

In 2017, a collective lawsuit by humanitarian, human rights and peacebuilding actors was taken against the UK government. The primary objective was to stop UK arms sales to Saudi Arabia where they could be used in the conflict in Yemen.

While the initial case was unsuccessful, in June 2019 the Court of Appeal found that it was ‘irrational and therefore unlawful’ for the UK to have granted licences for arms exports to Saudi Arabia for use in Yemen without making an assessment as to whether violations of international humanitarian law had taken place.

Although the UK resumed arms sales a year after the review, important partnerships were formed and lessons learned during this legal action, which have influenced other advocacy approaches. These are outlined in this briefing note.