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

    Republicans Struggle With Reality of Trump Nomination

    Despite calls for unity by presumptive presidential nominee, analysts see inevitable fragmentation of party ahead of November election and beyond

    Despite Cease-fire, Myanmar Landmine Scourge Goes Unaddressed

    Myanmar has third-highest mine casualty rate in the world, according to Landmine and Cluster Munition Monitor, which says between 1999 to 2014 it recorded 3,745 casualties, 396 of whom died

    Goodbye Ketchup, Hello Sriracha?

    From meat and potatoes to avocados, how immigrants transform American cuisine

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Press Freedom in Myanmar Fragile, Limitedi
    X
    Katie Arnold
    May 04, 2016 12:31 PM
    As Myanmar begins a new era with a democratically elected government, many issues of the past confront the new leadership. Among them is press freedom in a country where journalists have been routinely harassed or jailed.
    Video

    Video Press Freedom in Myanmar Fragile, Limited

    As Myanmar begins a new era with a democratically elected government, many issues of the past confront the new leadership. Among them is press freedom in a country where journalists have been routinely harassed or jailed.
    Video

    Video Taliban Threats Force Messi Fan to Leave Afghanistan

    A young Afghan boy, who recently received autographed shirts and a football from his soccer hero Lionel Messi, has fled his country due to safety concerns. He and his family are now taking refuge in neighboring Pakistan. VOA's Ayaz Gul reports from Islamabad.
    Video

    Video Major Rubbish Burning Experiment Captures Destructive Greenhouse Gases

    The world’s first test to capture environmentally harmful carbon dioxide gases from the fumes of burning rubbish took place recently in Oslo, Norway. The successful experiment at the city's main incinerator plant, showcased a method for capturing most of the carbon dioxide. VOA’s Deborah Block has more.
    Video

    Video EU Visa Block Threatens To Derail EU-Turkey Migrant Deal

    Turkish citizens could soon benefit from visa-free travel to Europe as part of the recent deal between the EU and Ankara to stem the flow of refugees. In return, Turkey has pledged to keep the migrants on Turkish soil and crack down on those who are smuggling them. Brussels is set to publish its latest progress report Wednesday — but as Henry Ridgwell reports from London, many EU lawmakers are threatening to veto the deal over human rights concerns.
    Video

    Video Tensions Rising Ahead of South China Sea Ruling

    As the Philippines awaits an international arbitration ruling on a challenge to China's claims to nearly all of the South China Sea, it is already becoming clear that regardless of which way the decision goes, the dispute is intensifying. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
    Video

    Video Painting Captures President Lincoln Assassination Aftermath

    A newly restored painting captures the moments following President Abraham Lincoln’s assassination in 1865. It was recently unveiled at Ford’s Theatre in Washington, where America’s 16th president was shot. It is the only known painting by an eyewitness that captures the horror of that fateful night. VOA’s Julie Taboh tells us more about the painting and what it took to restore it to its original condition.
    Video

    Video Elephant Summit Results in $5M in Pledges, Presidential Support

    Attended and supported by three African presidents, a three-day anti-poaching summit has concluded in Kenya, resulting in $5 million in pledges and a united message to the world that elephants are worth more alive than dead. The summit culminated at the Nairobi National Park with the largest ivory burn in history. VOA’s Jill Craig attended the summit and has this report about the outcomes.
    Video

    Video Displaced By War, Syrian Artist Finds Inspiration Abroad

    Saudi-born Syrian painter Mohammad Zaza is among the millions who fled their home for an uncertain future after Syria's civil war broke out. Since fleeing Syria, Zaza has lived in Lebanon, Egypt, Jordan and now Turkey where his latest exhibition, “Earth is Blue like an Orange,” opened in Istanbul. He spoke with VOA about how being displaced by the Syrian civil war has affected the country's artists.
    Video

    Video Ethiopia’s Drought Takes Toll on Children

    Ethiopia is dealing with its worst drought in decades, thanks to El Nino weather patterns. An estimated 10 million people urgently need food aid. Six million of them are children, whose development may be compromised without sufficient help, Marthe van der Wolf reports for VOA from the Metahara district.
    Video

    Video Little Havana - a Slice of Cuban Culture in Florida

    Hispanic culture permeates everything in Miami’s Little Havana area: elderly men playing dominoes as they discuss politics, cigar rollers deep at work, or Cuban exiles talking with presidential candidates at a Cuban coffee window. With the recent rapprochement between Cuba and United States, one can only expect stronger ties between South Florida and Cuba.
    Video

    Video California Republicans Weigh Presidential Choices Amid Protests

    Republican presidential candidates have been wooing local party leaders in California, a state that could be decisive in selecting the party's nominee for U.S. president. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports delegates to the California party convention have been evaluating choices, while front-runner Donald Trump drew hundreds of raucous protesters Friday.
    Video

    Video ‘The Lights of Africa’ - Through the Eyes of 54 Artists

    An exhibition bringing together the work of 54 African artists, one from each country, is touring the continent after debuting at COP21 in Paris. Called "Lumières d'Afrique," the show centers on access to electricity and, more figuratively, ideas that enlighten. Emilie Iob reports from Abidjan, the exhibition's first stop.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora