government has dismissed concerns about selling arms to Saudi Arabia amid accusations that it misled the parliament over the case.
On Tuesday, a British government spokeswoman defended the recent weapon sales to Riyadh, saying the Saudis have stuck to conditions set by the United Kingdom
She also noted that London is ensuring Riyadh is not breaking humanitarian laws by bombing civilian targets.
“The UK Government takes its arms export responsibilities very seriously and operates one of the most robust arms export control regimes in the world,” the spokeswoman said.
“The Government is satisfied that extant licenses for Saudi Arabia are compliant with the UK’s export licensing criteria,” she added.
The dismissal came in response to a statement by charity group Oxfam, which accused the UK government of being in a state of “denial and disarray” over its continued sales of weapons to the kingdom.
Penny Lawrence, deputy chief executive of Oxfam GB, said Britain
was “flagrantly” ignoring its own arms control rules as well as international treaties.
“UK arms and military
support are fueling a brutal war in Yemen, harming the very people the Arms Trade Treaty is designed to protect,” she said.
“Schools, hospitals and homes have been bombed in contravention of the rules of war. The UK Government is in denial and disarray over its arms sales to the Saudi-led coalition bombing campaign in Yemen,” Lawrence added.
“It has misled its own parliament about its oversight of arms sales and its international credibility is in jeopardy as it commits to action on paper but does the opposite in reality.”
Oxfam has launched a public appeal calling on the government to stop the war on Yemen.
The UK, the second-largest exporter of weapons in the world, approved licenses for the sale of $11.2 billion in armaments last year, but its licensing export regime is under acute scrutiny amid fears British weaponry, including cluster bombs, is being routinely used in Yemen.
According to sources, London supplied export licenses for close to £3 billion worth of arms to Saudi Arabia last year. The British government has also been accused of being involved in guiding the Saudi military aggression in Yemen.
Since the beginning of the Saudi war against Yemen in March of last year, nearly 10,000 people, including over 2,000 children, have been killed.
Meanwhile, the regimes that have made major arms purchases from the UK since last year include Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Egypt and Burundi.
In 2014, Britain only licensed $248 million worth of arm sales. The massive surge in the arms sales in 2015 is largely attributable to sales of weapons to the Saudi kingdom.
A Yemeni man inspects the damage following an air-strike carried out by Saudi warplanes on a school and a bowling club, in the capital Sana’a, on February 12, 2016. (AFP photo)
The largest export license granted was worth $2.48 billion of fighter jets agreed in May 2015. Additionally, the UK approved the export of $1.45 billion of air-to-air missiles to the Saudi regime in July 2015.
In September, it further approved the sale of $90.5 million worth of bombs to Riyadh. All three sales took place after the Saudi’s brutal bombing campaign of Yemen began in March 2015, prompting concerns that civilian buildings have been targeted in widespread human rights violations.
In 2015, the British government also approved licenses of $123 million in sales of military equipment to Egypt, despite concerns over the country’s repressive policies since the July 2013 coup that ousted the country’s first democratically-elected president, Mohamed Morsi.
“This is a clear case of the government saying one thing and doing another, and exposes the blatant doublespeak and hypocrisy that lies at the heart of UK foreign policy,” said Andrew Smith of the Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT), which compiled the export sales figures.