Home Scope U.K. Issues Arms Export Licenses to Possible Rights Violators

U.K. Issues Arms Export Licenses to Possible Rights Violators

by AFP

T. J. Kirkpatrick—AFP

Pakistan among 27 countries with potentially authoritarian regimes granted exports licenses.

Britain has issued export licenses worth £12 billion for the sale of military equipment to states deemed possible rights violators including Syria, Iran, China, and Pakistan, lawmakers said Wednesday.

A report by a group of parliamentary committees said that 3,000 licenses for arms and other equipment had been issued to countries on the Foreign Office’s list of 27 countries of human rights concerns. The countries for which licenses have been issued include Sri Lanka, Saudi Arabia, Russia, Belarus, and Zimbawe, the Committees on Arms Export Controls of parliament’s lower House of Commons said.

John Stanley, the chairman of the committees, said the report “puts into stark relief the inherent conflict between the government’s arms exports and human rights policies.”

The committee said that while many of the licenses were for dual military or civilian use items, which could not easily be used for internal repression, the numbers were still “surprisingly large.”

The countries with the largest numbers of licenses include China with 1,163 licenses worth £1.4 billion, Saudi Arabia with 417 licenses worth £1.8 billion, and Israel and the Palestinian Territories with 381 licenses worth £7.8 billion. Iran, at the center of international concerns about its nuclear program, had 62 licenses worth £803 million and Syria, where a civil war has left up to 100,000 people dead according to the United Nations, had three licenses worth £143,000. The only two countries without any valid licenses out of the 27 on the list were North Korea and South Sudan.

The list comprises Afghanistan, Belarus, Myanmar, China, Colombia, Cuba, North Korea, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Eritrea, Fiji, Iran, Iraq, Israel and the Palestinian Territories, Libya, Pakistan, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, South Sudan, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Syria, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Vietnam, Yemen, and Zimbabwe.

But the report also raised concerns about a further five countries for which licenses were issued: Argentina, Bahrain, Egypt, Madagascar, and Tunisia. Argentina was included on the list because of renewed tensions over the British-held Falkland Islands.

Rights group Amnesty International called for more transparency over what kind of equipment Britain was exporting. “It would be hard not to conclude that the U.K. government’s arms sales practices are at odds with its stated policy not to send weapons to anywhere that poses a clear risk that they could be used for human rights violations,” Amnesty’s arms control expert Oliver Sprague said.

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