Tuesday, April 05, 2011

Arms: UK misjudged arm sales to Arab countries, MPs say

London, April 5, IRNA – Successive British governments have misjudged the risk that arms approved for export to North Africa and Middle East might be used for internal repression, according to a new parliamentary report by Committees on Arms Export Controls.

Its report on arms exports accuses the coalition government of “vigorously back-pedalling” on a number of arms export licence approvals to authoritarian regimes across the region following the outbreak of pro-democracy protests in Arab countries in January this year.

'Both the present Government and its predecessor misjudged the risk that arms approved for export to certain authoritarian countries in North Africa and the Middle East might be used for internal repression', it said.

“The Committees welcome these revocations of arms export licences to Tunisia, Egypt, Libya and Bahrain but their number, 156 by the time the Committees concluded their Report, reflects the degree of policy misjudgement that has occurred,' said its chair, Conservative MP John Stanley.

The annual report, the first since the coalition came to power in May 2010, produced country-by-country examples for the first time of export licence approvals of arms since January 2009 that could be used for internal repression by authoritarian regimes in North Africa and the Middle East.

It called on the government to immediately extend the review of arms export licences, announced in February by Middle East Minister Alistair Burt, from Arab countries to authoritarian regimes worldwide in respect of weapons and components which could be used for internal repression.

“We also recommend that the government sets out how it intends to reconcile the potential conflict of interest between increased emphasis on promoting arms exports with the staunch upholding of human rights,” the all-party committees said.

Other recommendations included that ministers set itself a much shorter timetable within which to make the UK’s Consolidated Criteria for arms exports is wholly consistent with the EU’s Common Position.

“On enforcement, we recommend that the Government states what precise action it will take against ‘brass plate’ companies registered in the UK but trading in arms from overseas locations,” the report said.

The Committees on Arms Export Controls consists of four parliamentary select committees, covering Business, Innovation and Skills, Defence, Foreign Affairs and International Development.

Its main job is to review government policy on licensing arms exports and licensing decisions and each year produces an annual report which scrutinises the Strategic Export Controls in place.