UK sells arms to blacklisted regimes
A UK report has revealed that the Coalition government has approved the sale over £15 million of crowd-control equipment, including tear gas and rubber bullets, to countries included in Britain’s own human-rights blacklist.
The report published by The Independent on Sunday revealed that since Prime Minister David Cameron’s administration came to power in 2010, it has approved export licenses for at least £15.9 million of anti-riot and crowd-control goods.
The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) granted export licenses to more than 100 countries, including countries with questionable human-rights records, such as Saudi Arabia, Libya and Egypt, the report added.
According to the report, government data show that BIS has approved or are set to approve export licenses to nine countries, including Bahrain, Israel, Colombia, Libya and Saudi Arabia, which are listed or have been listed on UK’s Foreign Office’s human rights blacklist over the past five years.
Saudi Arabia bought tear gas to the amount of £2.95 million between 2010 and last September, while Libyan Dictator at the time Muammar Gaddafi purchased £2.93m of tear gas and £228,000 of “crowd-control ammunition” before he was overthrown in 2011.
Andrew Smith, from the Campaign Against the Arms Trade (Caat), criticized the export approvals saying it signals that Cameron’s government puts arms profit first.
“This is a sign of a system that puts arms-company profits ahead of human rights,” said Smith, adding, “Weapons like tear gas have an indiscriminate effect and are synonymous with internal repression.”
Smith also spoke of the government’s approval of exporting to Gaddafi’s regime, saying although the licenses were revoked “it should never have been signed in the first place.”
“Gaddafi was a brutal tyrant from day one, and this is a reminder that acts of oppression by his regime were carried out with British support,” Smith added.
The Cameron-led government has repeatedly defended its arms exports, claiming that a license will not be given when there is a “clear risk” that the purchased goods “might be used to facilitate internal repression.”
The report comes ahead of a closed Home Office-organized business fair this week that will include British arms and security firms displaying products “which would be too sensitive to show in a more-open environment” to dozens of foreign governments, including reportedly Saudi Arabia, Kazakhstan and Egypt.