Second Administrative Challenge against the Secretary of State for International Trade
Armed Conflict in Yemen
Administrative Challenge (Judicial Review)
This second claim for judicial review was filed after the Secretary of State decided to resume granting new licences for arms sales to Saudi Arabia. In justifying this decision, the Secretary of State claimed they had reviewed the UK’s licensing process as required by Challenge 1, and concluded that there was no ‘serious risk’ of IHL violations and no evidence that Saudi activity in Yemen amounted to a pattern of IHL violations but rather that any violations of IHL are ‘isolated’ incidents.
On 6 June 2023, the High Court delivered a judgement on the second Judicial Review, which included both open and closed proceedings. The Court dismissed all four grounds for challenge, finding that the then Secretary of State for International Trade was not acting irrationally in their decision to licence arms sales to the Saudi-led Coalition.
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The claimants submitted that the Secretary of State had failed to conduct a proper risk assessment as required under Criterion 2(c) of the Consolidated Criteria on four grounds:
First, that the Secretary of State’s conclusion that there were limited IHL violations was in contrast to the wealth of public evidence clearly indicating repeated serious IHL violations.
Second, that the Secretary of State had irrationally concluded that there was no pattern of IHL violations; because it had failed to consider other IHL violations beyond the unlawful airstrikes such as acts of torture, and because a pattern of IHL violations was also clearly evident from the airstrikes themselves.
Third, that the Secretary of State had not considered the ‘clear risk’ of future violations as even isolated incidents could give rise to such a risk.
Fourth, as raised in Challenge 1, the claimants also argued that the Secretary of State did not appropriately consider whether there is impunity in Saudi Arabia for serious violations of IHL, and misinterpreted what it means for an IHL violation to be considered ‘serious’.
In defence, the government argued that Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT) had not presented any basis for the assertion that the government’s decisions were irrational.
The case was heard in the High Court in early 2023 and, on 6 June 2023, a judgement was released, which rejected the challenge on the basis that the then Secretary of State for International Trade was not acting irrationally in their decision to licence arms sales to the Saudi-led Coalition.
26 Oct 2020
Case enters the courts. CAAT submits an application for judicial review to the High Court.Read the application for judicial review
22 Jan 2021
Government response. The government responds to CAAT's application for judicial review and submits that permission for judicial review should be refused. It submits that there is no basis to suggest that the Secretary of States decision-making approach is irrational, and that there is no basis for asserting that the Secretary of State’s conclusion that there is no ‘pattern’ of violations is irrational.Read the government's response here
20 Apr 2021
Permission granted to CAAT to advance its challenge to the High Court.Read the High Court ruling here
13 Jan 2022
A closed court session takes place.
31 Jan 2023
Three days of both open and closed proceedings begin in CAAT’s judicial review challenging the decision of the Secretary of State for International Trade to renew arms exports licences to Saudi Arabia. In the open hearing the Claimant pointed to the strong dependence of the UK government on reports by the Saudi-led Coalition’s internal investigation body, the Joint Incidents Assessment Team (JIAT), which are often not available and noted that half of all “credible” allegations of IHL violations attributed to Saudi Arabia were placed in the “insufficient information” category when making assessments.CAAT's Skeleton argument for substantive hearing 31 January
02 Feb 2023
Proceedings in the High Court close on schedule. A judgement is expected in spring/summer 2023.
06 Jun 2023
The High Court dismissed the grounds for challenge, finding that the then Secretary of State for International Trade was not acting irrationally in their decision to licence arms sales to the Saudi-led Coalition.Read the judgement here