DefenceForeign AffairsSpeeches

Greg Hands – 2020 Speech on Sale of Arms to War in Yemen

The text of the speech made by Greg Hands, the Minister for Trade Policy, in the House of Commons on 13 July 2020.

The Secretary of State has retaken the licensing decisions, as required by the Court of Appeal. All existing and new applications for Saudi Arabia for possible use in the conflict in Yemen will be assessed against the revised methodology, which considers whether there is a clear risk that the equipment might be used in the commission of a serious violation of international humanitarian law.

The revised methodology was developed to address the Court of Appeal’s judgment. It considers all allegations that are assessed as likely to have occurred and that have been caused by fixed-wing aircraft, reflecting the factual circumstances that the court proceedings concerned. It remains the case, however, that it can be extremely difficult to reach firm conclusions as to whether specific incidents violate the principles of international humanitarian law. Therefore, where an incident is assessed as a possible breach, it is regarded for the purposes of the relevant analysis as if there were breaches of IHL. I emphasise that that analysis is just one part of the assessment.

In retaking these decisions, the Secretary of State has considered the full range of information available to the Government. Some of that information is necessarily sensitive and confidential. I am therefore not able to go into detail about individual assessments. The crucial point is that we have assessed that there were a small number of incidents that have been treated, for the purposes of this analysis, as violations of international humanitarian law. However, these were isolated incidents and our analysis shows that Saudi Arabia has a genuine intent and the capacity to comply with international humanitarian law and the specific commitments it has made.

It is on that basis that the Secretary of State has assessed that there is not a clear risk that the export of arms and military equipment to Saudi Arabia might be used in the commission of a serious violation of international humanitarian law.