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UK weapons could be harming civilians in Yemen

Everything you need to know about the court case hoping to end UK weapons sales that could be fuelling the war in Yemen.

Written by Rachael Adams | 27 Jan 2023

A hand holding a wooden gavel over a wooden table

A gavel on a table | Image credit: Ekaterina Bolovtsova/Pexels

Companies in the UK are selling weapons and providing military support to Saudi Arabia – one of the major parties in the war in Yemen. It is civilians who are paying the price for these business deals, as homes, schools, hospitals and farms are being destroyed in the airstrikes. Now, a new court case could help end weapons to Saudi Arabia. Here is everything you need to know about the trial and how you can pray.

What is the trial about?

The court case is being brought by Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT). In 2019, they were able to get the government to briefly halt the sale of UK weapons to Saudi Arabia, before the UK Government decided to resume sales again in 2020.

The court case will look at whether the UK can legally sell weapons to the Saudi-led coalition that is bombing Yemen. In UK law, the sale of weapons is not allowed where there is a ‘clear risk’ that a weapon ‘might’ be used in a serious violation of International Humanitarian Law.

CAAT will be arguing that the weapons are regularly being used in attacks on civilians – that these are not isolated incidents.

How are UK weapons being used in the war?

New research, looking at 14 months of the conflict between 2021 and 2022, showed that more than four attacks on civilians were carried out every day. Out of the 1,700 attacks on civilians who were killed, injured or forced to flee their homes, it was found that air raids by the Saudi-led coalition, using weapons solely supplied by the UK and US, accounted for a quarter of all attacks.

Since the conflict in Yemen began eight years ago, it is estimated that the UK has supplied more than £23 billion of weapons to Saudi Arabia.

‘I wanted to scream as loud as my voice could handle and just cry, but I couldn’t even do that.’
Imana, from Yemen, describes the moment she found out her son had been killed in the fighting.

When is the trial happening?

The trial is taking place over three days from Tuesday 31 January to Thursday 2 February at the UK’s High Court in London.

What is the cost of the war on ordinary people in Yemen?

As well as costing lives, the bombings are causing fear, anxiety and depression across the country. More than 20 million people are now in need of basic essentials, such as food and clean water.

‘I wanted to scream as loud as my voice could handle and just cry, but I couldn’t even do that,’ shares Imana*, when she found out her son had been killed in another part of Yemen in the fighting.

‘The whole country collapsed, and our dreams collapsed with it,’ shares Ahmed*, about the effects the conflict had on him and his family.

Tearfund’s local partners are helping people like Imana and Ahmed by running trauma support groups. These group sessions help people to discuss their concerns, and understand and process their grief and trauma. They are vital to help people connect and support each other. We’re also providing people with seeds and tools, so they can feed their families and become self-sufficient.

How is Tearfund involved?

Tearfund is not involved in the court case directly, but we are monitoring the trial and its outcome.

Tearfund’s Campaigns Team has been raising awareness of this issue for many years. Our team has met with MPs and peers across political parties in order to highlight how the conflict in Yemen is harming people, as well as what the UK Government can do to make a difference. We have also encouraged supporters to write to their local MPs to make them aware of this issue.

Will the outcome of the trial make a difference?

If the judges rule that the sale of weapons is unlawful, it will increase pressure for the UK Government to stop selling weapons to Saudi Arabia. It could be a positive step forward to helping to end the conflict in Yemen.

How you can pray

Carve out some time each day the case is being heard and pray for the following. It might be helpful to think of people like Imana and Ahmed, whose lives are impacted by the war, and how stopping the sale of weapons will help people like them.

  • Pray that evidence by CAAT is clearly communicated. Pray that the judges will see the impact the war is having on the people of Yemen and how UK weapons could be violating International Humanitarian Law and harming civilians.
  • Pray for wisdom for the judges making the decision. Pray that the sale and use of these weapons in Yemen will cease and that all sides will work towards a ceasefire and an end to the conflict in Yemen.
  • Pray for the safety and provision of people in Yemen and that support will reach people in need.

*Names changed to protect identities

Written by

Written by  Rachael Adams

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