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‘Loony leftwing’ NGOs inflating Yemen’s bombing death toll? UK arms control chair slammed for claims

‘Loony leftwing’ NGOs inflating Yemen’s bombing death toll? UK arms control chair slammed for claims
A Labour MP who heads the group in charge of the UK’s arms control policy has come under fire after suggesting NGO statistics on civilian deaths caused by the Saudi-led coalition bombing of Yemen are exaggerated.

The comments come after a damning report by NGO Control Arms UK last week cast light on how the UK’s arms export policy has fueled human rights abuses in countries like Yemen.

Graham Jones, who oversees the Commons Committees on Arms Export Controls (CAEC), claimed that “a constant stream of stories” provided by British NGOs about coalition airstrikes in Yemen had turned out to be a “gross exaggeration.”

The CAEC comprises of four government select committees including defense, foreign affairs, international development, and business. Part of its remit includes the oversight of arms sales to Saudi Arabia and Yemen.

“The examples they finally do get to attribute, you suddenly find after investigating they are inaccurate and grossly inaccurate,” he claimed.

Speaking to the Guardian newspaper on Monday, Jones added that it was “disgraceful” how NGOs and “loony leftwing organisations have refused to back the UN’s unanimous position.”

“The problems in Yemen are not an airstrike problem, they are an economic collapse problem created by the mismanagement of the economy by violent illegal and occupying militia,” he added.

Rather than finding any issue with Riyadh’s conduct in the near-four year campaign or Western arms sales to the Kingdom, Jones said the blame for what was going on in Yemen lay at the doors of Iran, who have been supporting Houthi rebels fighting the Coalition.

These assessments were countered by Andrew Smith of the Campaign Against the Arms Trade (CAAT). Speaking to RT, Smith said that the Saudi-led bombardment on Yemen had caused the “worst humanitarian crisis in the world.”

“There is no doubt that atrocities have been committed on all sides, but that can be no justification for the brutal bombing which has killed thousands of people and destroyed vital infrastructure across Yemen,” he said.

Disputing Jones with the UN’s own statistics, Smith added that the “majority of child deaths in Yemen have been caused by Saudi bombs. Many of the fighter jets, missiles and bombs being used are made here in the UK.”

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While Jones brought into question the NGO’s attempts to give a more accurate count of the civilian death toll in Yemen, even the UN admits that its own count may be underestimated.

By the world body’s official count of civilian deaths in Yemen there has been a total of 17,062 civilian casualties – 6,592 dead and 10,470 injured.

A more recent figure gathered by researchers at the Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project (ACLED), however, states that between January 2016 and October 2018, at least 60,000 have been as direct combat casualties.

READ MORE: Pope Francis, who denounced Yemeni bloodshed, gets red carpet welcome in perpetrator UAE

Questioning how Jones was “still a Labour MP,” the journalist and activist Owen Jones tweeted: “While the Saudi dictatorship reduces Yemen to the world's worst humanitarian crisis and murders kids with British bombs, pro-Saudi shill @GrahamJones_MP attacks the integrity of NGOs on the ground who are reporting the truth.”

David Wearing, an international relations expert at Royal Holloway meanwhile questioned the MP’s credibility while defending the NGOs watching Yemen’s integrity.

“As an academic specialist on this, I can confirm that NGOs report on Yemen with the utmost care, professionalism and integrity. To say that Graham Jones MP lacks credibility would be the pinnacle of understatement.”

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