Andrew Smith of Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT) blasted ministers for allowing billions of pounds worth of weapons to be exported to Saudi forces which are used in bloody conflict in Yemen.
At least 10,000 people have been killed in the war between Houthi rebels and the Saudi-led coalition supporting the Government, a report by the United Nations said.
It’s believed another 40,000 have been injured since violence escalated in one of the Arab world’s poorest countries in March 2015.
Andrew Smith compared selling arms to Saudi Arabia to that of arming North Korea
We want them to treat Saudi Arabia in exactly same way
Next month, the CAAT is challenging the legality of UK arms exports to Saudi Arabia at the High Court – as it hopes to end arm sales to the country.
Speaking ahead of the court case, Mr Smith said it was unacceptable the UK Government had supplied the Saudi forces with £3.3bn worth of military supplies in almost two years.
“UK arms have been central to the devastation of Yemen and the humanitarian crisis it has caused,” he said.
“The fact that UK aircraft and bombs are being used in the destruction is a terrible sign of how the UK Government is putting arms company profits ahead of human lives.”
British-bought jets have been used by Saudi Arabia in the bombing of Yemen
Questioned whether or not it was vital for the UK to arm the Arab nation in order to protect its own national interests, Mr Smith hit back: “It’s an argument which we come across quite a lot.
“And it’s not actually a lot different from the argument the Government makes in its own defence.
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“The exact same reasons could be given to selling arms to North Korea, Iran, Russia, the Democratic Republic of Congo or any of these abhorrent regimes – but the UK rightly doesn’t arm these countries.
“We want them to treat Saudi Arabia in exactly same way.”
The campaigner warned arming Saudi forces was just as dangerous as arming North Korea
Britain’s sale of arms to Saudi was put under the spotlight in December 2016 when Defence Secretary Sir Michael Fallon was forced to admit illegal cluster bombs, made in the UK, had been used in the conflict.
Since 2010 it has been against British law to supply the bombs, which release small bomblets over a wide area.
In a statement to MPs, Sir Michael said the UK had not supplied any cluster bombs to Saudi Arabia since 1989.
But he added that Saudi investigations had concluded that some UK-made cluster bombs had been dropped.
A Saudi-led coalition has been bombing Yemen since March 2015
Saudi’s bombing campaign in Yemen has been widely condemned by humanitarian groups, who claim the action is in breach of international humanitarian law.
Licenses for UK arms to be exported may only be granted if there is no clear risk that the equipment may be used in violation of the legal framework.
Since March 2015, the UK has sold over £2.2bn worth of aircraft, helicopters and drones to the Saudi military – with another £1.1bn sold on grenades, bombs and missiles.
Mr Smith said he hoped that if the group’s legal action is successful in February, it will set a precedent for the UK’s export criteria.
He told Express.co.uk: “We want to see a world where no one is selling arms to anyone frankly.
“The priority has to be to make sure weapons aren’t going to dictatorships or human rights abusers.
“Once weapons have left these shores we have almost no idea where they are going to turn up.”
The UK has supplied £3.3bn worth of arms to Saudi Arabia since March 2015
The campaigner also took “issue” with the £40bn the UK Government spends on its nuclear deterrent Trident.
He argued Britain’s defence spending, which includes a new £6bn aircraft carrier due for completion this year, was just a “big vanity project”.
The CAAT’s claim calls on the Department of International Trade to suspend all existing licenses and stop issuing further arms exports to Saudi Arabia for use in Yemen while it holds a full review into the compatibility of UK and EU export legislation.
It will be considered by judges at the High Court in London early next month.