Nick Benson

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Pax Christi ‘determined’ to stop arms trade following Campaign Against Arms Trade’s landmark legal challenge

An international Catholic peace movement has said it is “determined” to stop the arms trade by building on a landmark legal challenge that resulted in the UK Government halting new arms export licences to Saudi Arabia.

The Government announced that it will temporarily halt the granting of new licences to export arms to Saudi Arabia after the Campaign Against Arms Trade’s (CAAT) victory in its legal challenge against the Government over UK arms sales to Saudi Arabia.

CAAT, which brought the case against International Trade Secretary Liam Fox, welcomed the Court of Appeal’s verdict that continuing to license military equipment for export to the Gulf state was unlawful.

Welcoming the success of CAAT’s legal challenge, Pax Christi urged the public to build on CAAT’s victory by joining them and many other peace groups in protests calling for an end to the arms trade.

“Pope Francis describes money made from selling arms as ‘drenched in blood’,” Theresa Alessandro, director of Pax Christi, told The Catholic Universe. “He reminds us that ‘it is our duty to confront the problem and stop the arms trade’.

“Pax Christi members believe in nonviolent conflict resolution – which has been shown to be effective around the world. We are delighted by the success of CAAT’s legal challenge. Pax Christi and many other groups are determined to build on CAAT’s success, carrying out our duty to stop the arms trade by protesting against the huge DSEI Arms Fair which is due to set up shop again in September in London. Join us!” Ms Alessandro added.

After the court’s decision was announced, the Government said it planned to challenge the ruling – but that it would not grant any new licences while it considered the judgment.

Mr Fox told the House of Commons: “We disagree with the judgment against the Government…and will seek permission to appeal (against) the judgment.”

He added: “We are carefully considering the implications of the judgment for decision-making.

“While we do this, we will not grant any new licences for export to Saudi Arabia and its coalition partners which might be used in the conflict in Yemen.”

CAAT argued that export licences should not have been granted as there was a clear risk that the arms might be used in a serious violation of international humanitarian law.

Giving judgment in London on Thursday, the Court of Appeal ruled that “the process of decision-making by the Government was wrong in law in one significant respect”.

Announcing the court’s decision, Master of the Rolls Sir Terence Etherton, sitting with Lord Justice Irwin and Lord Justice Singh, said 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, and made no attempt to do so”.

Sir Terence added: “The decision of the court today does not mean that licences to export arms to Saudi Arabia must immediately be suspended.”

He said the Government “must reconsider the matter” and estimate any future risks in light of their conclusions about the past.

Andrew Smith of CAAT said: “We welcome this verdict, but it should never have taken a court case brought by campaigners to force the Government to follow its own rules.

“The Saudi Arabian regime is one of the most brutal and repressive in the world, yet, for decades, it has been the largest buyer of UK-made arms.

“No matter what atrocities it has inflicted, the Saudi regime has been able to count on the uncritical political and military support of the UK.

“The bombing has created the worst humanitarian crisis in the world. UK arms companies have profited every step of the way. The arms sales must stop immediately.”

Picture: Protesters outside the Royal Courts of Justice, London, ahead of a ruling in the legal challenge over the UK Government’s exports of arms to Saudi Arabia. (Stefan Rousseau/PA).

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