The neutrality of the chief gatekeeper to the UK’s arms control regime has been brought into question after he repeatedly attacked the integrity of British NGOs’ claims about civilian deaths in Yemen.
Graham Jones, a Labour MP and chair of the Commons committees on arms export controls (CAEC), also said that blame for the war in Yemen lay primarily with Iran, and not the west or Saudi Arabia.
Jones is the most senior parliamentarian overseeing Britain’s arms control regime, including the lawfulness of UK arms sales to Saudi Arabia and Yemen.
Yemen’s UN-backed government, supported by Saudi and UAE forces, has been trying to dislodge a Houthi militia in the country.
Jones told the defence select committee that NGOs were “dishonest” in their reporting. “We see it time and time again with regards to airstrikes – there is a gross exaggeration by NGOs as to what has happened. You just have to pick up the newspaper. The examples they finally do get to attribute, you suddenly find after investigating they are inaccurate and grossly inaccurate.”
Jones said there was “a constant stream of stories” generated by NGOs based on so-called evidence that turned out to be false.
NGOs working in the region are privately furious at what they regard as a belittling of their legitimate efforts to highlight the number of civilian casualties caused by Saudi air strikes. They insist they have also called out Houthi war crimes, but point out the UK is supplying weapons to the Saudis and not the Houthis.
Jones told the Guardian that the NGOs misunderstood the region’s problems. “It’s disgraceful how NGOs and loony leftwing organisations have refused to back the UN’s unanimous position. We desperately need peace in Yemen, not fantasy answers made in safe European homes.
“The problems in Yemen are not an airstrike problem, they are an economic collapse problem created by the mismanagement of the economy by…