UK committee on arms sales ignores Saudi arms deals, Yemen war in key inquiry
A UK parliamentary panel tasked with scrutinizing the country’s weapons sales in 2017 has come under fire for turning a blind eye on London’s extensive arms deals with Saudi Arabia and their effects on the people of Yemen.
The Committees on Arms Export Controls (CAEC) launched its inquiry into Prime Minister Theresa May’s government's latest 2017 Strategic Export Controls Annual Report in late 2018 and held its first evidence session by inviting a number of officials and sales experts to the House of Commons last week.
However, the committee’s agenda seems to be void of any reference to London’s dealings with the Riyadh regime, which has become the largest purchaser of UK-made weapons since 2015, the year it launched a deadly military aggression against its impoverished southern neighbor, Yemen.
The inquiry covers both the technicalities of the policy, such as the different types of arms export licenses issued by the government and its political aspect to answer questions such as the consequences of a no-deal Brexit on the country’s weapons sales.
The exclusion of the conflict in Yemen has raised questions among activists and campaign groups, specially since the panel’s previous work on the government’s 2016 policy had raised concerns about the nature of arms deals with Saudi Arabia.
In fact, the previous report was so damaging that many lawmakers asked the government to end the weapons sales to Saudi Arabia. The growing divide over the issue eventually led to the dissolution of the CAEC.
The controversy continued after the current lineup of lawmakers took over the panel in October 2017 and made it clear that they were not going to remain neutral over the matter.
Graham Jones, a Labour MP and chair of the CAEC, said last week that neither the West nor Saudi Arabia were to blame for the war in Yemen, which has killed over 57,000 people since its onset in March 2015.