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

Video China Investigates Powerful Former Security Chief

Analysts say move by President Xi is an effort to win more party support, take step toward economic reforms, removing those who would stand in way of change More

South Africa Land Reforms Still Contentious 20 Years Later

Activists argue that the pace of land reform is slow and biased; legal experts question how some proposed reforms would be implemented More

In Vietnam, Religious Freedoms Violated, UN Finds

Beliefs reportedly prompt heavy surveillance, intimidation and travel restrictions More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Information War Rages Alongside Real One in Ukrainei
X
Al Pessin
July 31, 2014 8:13 PM
The downing of the Malaysian airliner two weeks ago, and allegations that Russians are shelling Ukrainian troops across the border, have moved the information war swirling around the Ukrainian conflict to a new level. VOA's Al Pessin reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video Information War Rages Alongside Real One in Ukraine

The downing of the Malaysian airliner two weeks ago, and allegations that Russians are shelling Ukrainian troops across the border, have moved the information war swirling around the Ukrainian conflict to a new level. VOA's Al Pessin reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video When Fighting Eases, Gazans Line Up at Bakeries

When there is a lull in the conflict in Gaza, residents who have been hunkered down in their apartments rush out to stock up on food and other necessities. Probably the most important destination is the local bakery. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Gaza City.
Video

Video US-Funded Program Offers Honduran Children Alternative to Illegal Immigration

President Obama and Central American leaders recently agreed to come up with a plan to address poverty and crime in the region that is fueling the surge of young migrants trying to illegally enter the United States. VOA’s Brian Padden looks at one such program in Honduras - funded in part by the United States - which gives street kids not only food and safety but a chance for a better life without, crossing the border.
Video

Video 'Fab Lab' Igniting Revolution in Kenya

The University of Nairobi’s Science and Technology Park is banking on 3-D prototyping to spark a manufacturing revolution in the country. Lenny Ruvaga has more for from Nairobi's so-called “FabLab” for VOA.
Video

Video Gazans in Shelled School Sought Shelter

Israel's air and ground assault against Hamas-led fighters in Gaza has forced many Palestinians to flee their homes, seeking safety. But safe places are hard to find, as VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Jabaliya.
Video

Video Rapid Spread of Ebola in West Africa Prompts Global Alert

Across West Africa, health officials are struggling to keep up with what the World Health Organization describes as the worst ebola outbreak on record. The virus has killed hundreds of people this year. U.S. President Barack Obama and other world leaders are watching the developments closely as they weigh what actions, if any, are needed to help contain the disease.
Video

Video Michelle Obama: Young Africans Need to Embrace Women's Rights

U.S. first lady Michelle Obama urged some of Africa's best and brightest to advocate for women's rights in their home countries. As VOA's Pam Dockins explains, Obama spoke to some 500 participants of the Young African Leaders Initiative, a six-week U.S.-based training and development program.
Video

Video Immigrant Influx on Texas Border Heats Up Political Debate

Immigrants from Central America continue to cross the U.S.-Mexico border in south Texas, seeking asylum in the United States, as officials grapple with ways to deal with the problem and provide shelter for thousands of minors among the illegal border crossers. As VOA's Greg Flakus reports from Houston, the issue is complicated by internal U.S. politics and U.S. relations with the troubled nations that immigrants are fleeing.
Video

Video Study: Latino Students Most Segregated in California

Even though legal school segregation ended in the United States 60 years ago, one study finds segregation still occurs in the U.S. based on income and race. The University of California Los Angeles Civil Rights Project finds that students in California are more segregated by race than ever before, especially Latinos. Elizabeth Lee reports for VOA from Los Angeles.

AppleAndroid