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  • A Saudi flag flutters atop Saudi Arabia's consulate in Istanbul, Turkey October 20, 2018.

    A Saudi flag flutters atop Saudi Arabia's consulate in Istanbul, Turkey October 20, 2018. | Photo: Reuters

Published 20 June 2019

Britain is the world’s sixth largest seller of arms, after the United States, Russia, France, Germany and China, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI).

The United Kingdom broke international law by allowing arms exports to Saudi Arabia that might have been used in Yemen’s war, a court ruled on Thursday, after activists argued the weapons were likely operated in violation of human rights legislation.

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While the court’s decision does not mean Britain must immediately halt arms exports to Saudi Arabia, it does mean that there is a stay on the granting of new export licenses to sell arms to the kingdom - Britain’s biggest weapons purchaser.

The United Nations has described the conflict in Yemen, which has killed tens of thousands of people including thousands of civilians, as the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.

“The Court of Appeal has concluded that the process of decision-making by the government was wrong in law in one significant respect,” judge Terence Etherton said as he handed down the ruling.

He added that the government made “no concluded assessments of whether the Saudi-led coalition had committed violations of international humanitarian law in the past, during the Yemen conflict.”

A British government spokeswoman said: “This judgment is not about whether the decisions themselves were right or wrong, but whether the process in reaching those decisions was correct.”

“We disagree with the judgment and will be seeking permission to appeal,” the spokeswoman said.Saudi Arabia accounted for 43 percent of Britain’s global arms sales in the past decade.

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