UK High Court judgement fails to offer protection to civilians

The Methodist Church has expressed its disappointment and concern following a ruling of the High Court, announced earlier this week, allowing the UK to continue to export weapons to Saudi Arabia. 

The High Court judged that the UK Government had gathered sufficient information to entitle it to rationally conclude that there was no 'clear risk' of a 'serious violation of International Humanitarian Law.'

Saudi Arabia has led a coalition of forces against Houthi militias in Yemen, a conflict which has claimed the lives of over 10,000 civilians since 2014.

Despite atrocities taking place on both sides, the largest single cause of civilian deaths is thought to be air strikes by Saudi-led coalition forces; which have come under criticism from the UN, human rights groups and NGOs.

A UN panel of experts concluded that the bombing campaign of Sa'dah in 2015 represented a grave violation of the principles of distinction, proportionality and precaution defined within International Humanitarian Law. 

Yemen is now in the grip of a severe famine and cholera epidemic exacerbated by the destruction of infrastructure and health facilities.

Steve Hucklesby, Policy Adviser for the Methodist Church, made the following comment following the High Court judgement: "Our Government told the High Court that it tracks all allegations of strikes on civilians and shares this data with the Saudi military who engage in constructive dialogue over incidents of concern. However in the case of the majority of these strikes, the UK Government was 'unable to identify a legitimate military target'. In the light of evidence from the UN and elsewhere, it is difficult to understand how the UK Government concludes that there is no clear risk that there might be serious violations of International Humanitarian Law."

The Revd Loraine N Mellor, President of the Methodist Conference, added: "The judgement of the High Court yesterday will do nothing to provide civilians in Yemen with the protection that they so desperately need.

Our hearts go out to the people of Yemen who have come under attack from both sides in this brutal civil war and we will continue to pray. It is difficult to see how a lasting peace can be achieved through a conflict that kills over 10,000 civilians and leaves 300,000 people infected with cholera."

Jill Baker, Vice-President of the Methodist Conference said: "Many of us try to express our ethical standpoints through the way in which we spend our money. It seems only right that we also expect ethical standards from our government in engaging in trading relationships that respect human rights and international law. We hold the people of Yemen and those providing assistance in our prayers."

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