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Matrix members find UK Government is in breach of national, EU and international law and policy

Related Member(s):
Prof. Philippe Sands QC, Prof. Andrew Clapham, Blinne Ní Ghrálaigh
Related Practice Area(s):
EU Law, Public and Private International Law

The UK Government is in breach of national, EU and international law and policy by supplying weapons to Saudi Arabia in the context of its military intervention and bombing campaign of Yemen according to analysis of eminent international law experts commissioned by Amnesty International and Saferworld, both members of the Control Arms campaign.

The lawyers, Professor Philippe Sands QC, Professor Andrew Clapham and Blinne Ní Ghrálaigh of Matrix Chambers, in their comprehensive legal opinion, have concluded, on the basis of the information available, that the UK Government is in breach of its obligations under the Arms Trade Treaty, the EU Common Position on Arms Exports and the UK’s Consolidated Criteria on arms exports.

They conclude that “any authorisation by the UK of the transfer to Saudi Arabia of weapons and related items within the scope” of those legal instruments “in circumstances where such weapons are capable of being used in the conflict in Yemen, including to support its blockade of Yemeni territory, and in circumstances where their end-use is not restricted, would constitute a breach by the UK of its obligations under domestic, European and international law.”

They also conclude that the UK Government can properly be deemed to have “actual knowledge… of the use by Saudi Arabia of weapons, including UK-supplied weapons, in attacks directed against civilians and civilians objects, in violation of international law,” since at least May 2015.

Although the focus of their opinion was on the UK Government’s legal obligations regarding the authorisation regime for arms transfers, the lawyers underscored that all sides to the conflict in Yemen are accused of serious breaches of international law.