News / Europe

British Lawmakers Voice Concerns Over Arms Exports

FILE - A view of the Houses of Parliament in central London, April 10, 2013. FILE - A view of the Houses of Parliament in central London, April 10, 2013.
x
FILE - A view of the Houses of Parliament in central London, April 10, 2013.
FILE - A view of the Houses of Parliament in central London, April 10, 2013.
Selah Hennessy
Britain has issued billions of dollars’ worth of export licenses for the sale of military equipment to states that are considered possible rights violators, it was revealed on Wednesday. The countries include Syria, Iran and China.

The report by British lawmakers on Wednesday said there is an “inherent conflict” between Britain’s arms exports and its human rights policies.
 
The Foreign Office has a list of 27 countries where the government has concerns about human rights violations. Only two of those countries, South Sudan and North Korea, do not have valid arms export licenses.
 
Wednesday’s parliamentary report came from the Commons Committee on Arms Exports Controls. Its chairman, John Stanley, spoke to the BBC.

“We were very surprised both by the number- over 3,000 - of extant arms export licenses going to countries which the British government has designated as countries of serious human rights concerns," he said. "We were also surprised by the value of those licenses, over 12 billion pounds [$18 billion].”

The largest number of licenses were issued for exports to China, Saudi Arabia, and Israel.
 
More than 60 licenses were granted for Iran, despite ongoing international concerns over its nuclear program. Three were granted to Syria, which is embroiled in a civil war.
 
The committee specifically raised concerns over a license granted to Israel worth more than $10 billion - well over half of the total to all countries. The license was for cryptography equipment.
 
Commission Chair Stanley said the committee will be questioning the government over the license, asking whether elements of Israel’s license for equipment could be used for internal repression.

A spokeswoman for Britain's Department for Business, Innovation and Skills said cryptography is a means of “preventing unauthorized access to data." She said most of the licenses were for commercial applications, such as online shopping and banking.

But campaign groups said Wednesday that the committee report highlights an argument they have long been making - that Britain needs to tighten up its arms export policies.
 
“You only have to look at what is happening right now in Egypt to know that the risks posed by sending things like small arms there are very strong," said Amnesty International's U.K. Arms Program Director Oliver Sprague. "It is extremely likely that the Egyptian security forces will use any equipment like that to brutally suppress its own population.”

Egypt is not on the list of 27 Countries of Human Rights concern.

Currently, there are standard individual export licenses worth just under $1 billion for exports to Egypt, including for body armor and components for combat vehicles, as well as for small arms and ammunition.
 
Campaign groups, including Amnesty International, have been especially critical of British arms exports to the Middle East in recent years. They say arms sold by Britain were used by repressive governments to suppress popular protests, including in Bahrain and Libya.
 
Sprague said it’s time Britain learned its lesson from the bloodshed of recent years.
 
“We never should have been sending the Colonel Gaddafi regime as much weapons as we sold him, because it was always likely if that country ever degenerated into turmoil that those weapons would be used against Libya's own population, which is indeed exactly what happened,” he said.

In reaction to the report, the British government said it has one of the “most rigorous” arms export control regimes. It said licenses are not granted when there is a risk that goods would be used for repression or to exacerbate conflict.

You May Like

Conflicts Engulf Christians in Mideast

Research finds an increase in faith-based hostilities, and Christians are facing persecution in a growing number of countries in the region More

Chinese Americans: Don’t Call Us 'Model Minority'

Label points to collective achievement, but some say it triggers resentment, unrealistic expectations More

Iran Bolsters Surveillance of Phones, Internet

Does increased monitoring suggest the government is nervous? More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
West Africa Ebola Vaccine Trials Possible by Early 2015i
X
Carol Pearson
August 30, 2014 7:14 PM
A U.S. health agency is speeding up clinical trials of a possible vaccine against the deadly Ebola virus that so far has killed more than 1,500 people in West Africa. If successful, the next step would be a larger trial in countries where the outbreak is occurring. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
Video

Video West Africa Ebola Vaccine Trials Possible by Early 2015

A U.S. health agency is speeding up clinical trials of a possible vaccine against the deadly Ebola virus that so far has killed more than 1,500 people in West Africa. If successful, the next step would be a larger trial in countries where the outbreak is occurring. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
Video

Video Survivors Commemorate 70th Anniversary of Nazi Liquidation of Polish Ghetto

When the Nazi army moved into the Polish city of Lodz in 1939, it marked the beginning of a long nightmare for the Jewish community that once made up one third of the population. Roughly 200,000 people were forced into the Lodz Ghetto. Less than 7,000 survived. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, some survivors gathered in Chicago on the 70th anniversary of the liquidation of the Lodz Ghetto to remember those who suffered at the hands of the Nazi regime.
Video

Video Cost to Raise Child in US Continues to Rise

The cost of raising a child in the United States continues to rise. In its latest annual report, the U.S. Department of Agriculture says middle income families with a child born in 2013 can expect to spend more than $240,000 before that child turns 18. And sending that child to college more than doubles that amount. VOA’s Deborah Block visited with a couple with one child in Alexandria, Virginia, to learn if the report reflects their lifestyle.
Video

Video Chaotic Afghan Vote Recount Threatens Nation’s Future

Afghanistan’s troubled presidential election continues to be rocked by turmoil as an audit of the ballots drags on. The U.N. says the recount will not be completed before September 10. Observers say repeated disputes and delays are threatening the orderly transfer of power and could have dangerous consequences. VOA correspondent Meredith Buel reports.
Video

Video Ukraine Battles Pro-Russia Rebel Assault

After NATO concluded an emergency meeting to discuss the crisis in eastern Ukraine, the country is struggling to contain heavy fighting near the strategic port of Mariupol, on the Azov Sea. Separatist rebels are trying to capture the city, allegedly with Russian military help, and Ukraine's defense forces are digging in. VOA's Daniel Schearf spoke with analysts about what lies ahead for Ukraine.
Video

Video Growing Business Offers Paint with a Twist of Wine

Two New Orleans area women started a small business seven years ago with one thing in mind: to help their neighbors relieve the stress of coping with a hurricane's aftermath. Today their business, which pairs painting and a little bit of wine, has become one of the fastest growing franchises across the U.S. VOA’s June Soh met the entrepreneurs at their newest franchise location in the Washington suburbs.
Video

Video Ebola Vaccine Trials To Begin Next Week

The National Institutes of Health says it is launching early stage trials of a vaccine to prevent the Ebola virus, which has infected or killed thousands of people across West Africa. The World Health Organization says Ebola could infect more than 20,000 people across the region by the time the outbreak is over. The epidemic has health experts and governments scrambling to prevent more people from becoming infected. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Asian Bacteria Threatens Florida Orange Trees

Florida's citrus fruit industry is facing a serious threat from a bacteria carried by the Asian insect called psyllid. The widespread infestation again highlights the danger of transferring non-native species to American soil. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Aging Will Reduce Economic Growth Worldwide in Coming Decades

The world is getting older, fast. And as more people retire each year, fewer working-age people will be there to replace them. Bond rating agency Moody’s says that will lead to a decline in household savings; reducing global investments - which in turn, will lead to slower economic growth around the world. But experts say it’s not too late to mitigate the economic impact of the world’s aging populations. Mil Arcega has more.
Video

Video Is West Doing Enough to Tackle Islamic State?

U.S. President Barack Obama has ruled out sending ground troops to Iraq to fight militants of the so-called Islamic State, or ISIS, despite officials in Washington describing the extremist group as the biggest threat the United States has faced in years. Henry Ridgwell reports from London on the growing uncertainty over whether the West’s response to ISIS will be enough to defeat the terrorist threat.
Video

Video Coalition to Fight Islamic State Could Reward Assad

The United States along with European and Mideast allies are considering a broader assault against Islamic State fighters who have spread from Syria into Iraq and risk further destabilizing an already troubled region. But as VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports, confronting those militants could end up helping the embattled Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Video

Video Made in America Socks Get Toehold in Online Fashion Market

Three young entrepreneurs are hoping to revolutionize the high-end sock industry by introducing all-American creations of their own. And they’re doing most of it the old-fashioned way. VOA’s Julie Taboh recently caught up with them to learn what goes into making their one-of-a-kind socks.
Video

Video Americans, Ex-Pats Send Relief Supplies to West Africa

Health organizations from around the world are sending supplies and specialists to the West African countries that are dealing with the worst Ebola outbreak in history. On a smaller scale, ordinary Americans and African expatriates living in the United States are doing the same. VOA's Carol Pearson reports.

AppleAndroid