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

Photogallery Americans Celebrate Thanksgiving With Feasts, Festivities

Holiday traditions include turkey dinners, 'turkey trots,' American-style football and New York parade with giant balloons More

Video For Obama, Ferguson Violence is a Personal Issue

With two years left in term, analysts say, president has less to lose by taking conversation on race further More

Video Italian Espresso Expands Into Space

When Italian astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti headed for the ISS, her countrymen worried how she would survive six months drinking only instant coffee More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
To Make A Living, Nairobi Street Vendors Face Legal Hurdles, Physical Violencei
X
Lenny Ruvaga
November 27, 2014 7:05 PM
The Nairobi City Council has been accused of brutality in dealing with hawkers in the Central Business District - in order to stop them from illegally selling their wares on the streets. Lenny Ruvaga has more for VOA News from the Kenyan capital.
Video

Video To Make A Living, Nairobi Street Vendors Face Legal Hurdles, Physical Violence

The Nairobi City Council has been accused of brutality in dealing with hawkers in the Central Business District - in order to stop them from illegally selling their wares on the streets. Lenny Ruvaga has more for VOA News from the Kenyan capital.
Video

Video For Obama, Ferguson Violence is a Personal Issue

Throughout the crisis in Ferguson, Missouri, President Barack Obama has urged calm, restraint and respect for the rule of law. But the events in Ferguson have prompted him to call — more openly than he has before — for profound changes to end the racism and distrust that he believes still exists between whites and blacks in the United States. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Online Magazine Gets Kids Discussing Big Questions

Teen culture in America is often criticized for being superficial. But an online magazine has been encouraging some teenagers to explore deeper issues, and rewarding their efforts. VOA religion reporter Jerome Socolovsky went to this year’s Kidspirit awards ceremony in New York.
Video

Video US Community Kicks Off Thanksgiving With Parade

Thursday is Thanksgiving in the United States, a holiday whose roots go back to the country's earliest days as a British colony. One way Americans celebrate the occasion is with parades. Anush Avetisyan takes us to one such event on the day before Thanksgiving near Washington, where a community's diversity is on display. Joy Wagner narrates
Video

Video Aung San Suu Kyi: Myanmar Opposition to Keep Pushing for Constitutional Change

Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi says she and her supporters will continue pushing to amend a constitutional clause that bars her from running for president next year. VOA's Than Lwin Htun reports from the capital Naypyitaw in this report narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video Mali Attempts to Shut Down Ebola Transmission Chain

Senegal and Nigeria were able to stop small Ebola outbreaks by closely monitoring those who had contact with the sick person and quickly isolating anyone with symptoms. Mali is now scrambling to do the same. VOA’s Anne Look reports from Mali on what the country is doing to shut down the chain of transmission.
Video

Video Ukraine Marks Anniversary of Deadly 1930s Famine

During a commemoration for millions who died of starvation in Ukraine in the early 1930s, President Petro Poroshenko lashed out at Soviet-era totalitarianism for causing the deaths and accused today’s Russian-backed rebels in the east of using similar tactics. VOA’s Daniel Shearf reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video Hong Kong Protests at a Crossroads

New public opinion polls in Hong Kong indicate declining support for pro-democracy demonstrations after weeks of street protests. VOA’s Bill Ide in Guangzhou and Pros Laput in Hong Kong spoke with protesters and observers about whether demonstrators have been too aggressive in pushing for change.
Video

Video US Immigration Relief Imminent for Mixed-Status Families

Tens of thousands of undocumented immigrants in the Washington, D.C., area may benefit from a controversial presidential order announced this week. It's not a path to citizenship, as some activists hoped. But it will allow more immigrants who arrived as children or who have citizen children, to avoid deportation and work legally. VOA's Victoria Macchi talks with one young man who benefited from an earlier presidential order, and whose parents may now benefit after years of living in fear.
Video

Video New Skateboard Defies Gravity

A futuristic dream only a couple of decades ago, the hoverboard – a skateboard that floats above the ground - has finally been made possible. While still not ready for mass production, it promises to become a cool mode of transport... at least over some surfaces. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Impact US Oil Extraction

With the price of oil now less than $80 a barrel, motorists throughout the United States are benefiting from gas prices below $3 a gallon. But as VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the decreasing price of petroleum has a downside for the hydraulic fracturing industry in the United States.
Video

Video Tensions Build on Korean Peninsula Amid Military Drills

It has been another tense week on the Korean peninsula as Pyongyang threatened to again test nuclear weapons while the U.S. and South Korean forces held joint military exercises in a show of force. VOA’s Brian Padden reports from the Kunsan Air Base in South Korea.
Video

Video Mama Sarah Obama Honored at UN Women’s Entrepreneurship Day

President Barack Obama's step-grandmother is in the United States to raise money to build a $12 million school and hospital center in Kogelo, Kenya, the birthplace of the president's father, Barack Obama, Sr. She was honored for her decades of work to aid poor Kenyans at a Women's Entrepreneurship Day at the United Nations.
Video

Video Ebola Economic Toll Stirs W. Africa Food Security Concerns

The World Bank said Wednesday that it expects the economic impact of the Ebola outbreak on the sub-Saharan economy to cost somewhere betweenf $3 billion to $4 billion - well below a previously-outlined worst-case scenario of $32 billion. Some economists, however, paint a gloomier picture - warning that the disruption to regional markets and trading is considerable. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Chaos, Abuse Defy Solution in Libya

The political and security crisis in Libya is deepening, with competing governments and, according to Amnesty International, widespread human rights violations committed with impunity. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video US Hosts Record 866,000 Foreign Students

Close to 900,000 international students are studying at American universities and colleges, more than ever before. About half of them come from Asia, mostly China. The United States hosts more foreign students than any other country in the world, and its foreign student population is steadily growing. Zlatica Hoke reports.

All About America

AppleAndroid