Global military sales review urged
Jul 13 2012
Ministers have been accused of failing to take sufficient account of human rights concerns when awarding licences for arms exports.
In a hard-hitting report, MPs on the Commons Committees on Arms Export Controls called for a worldwide review of the government policy on military sales to authoritarian regimes. They said ministers needed to explain whether the 600 licences still valid to Arab countries - including nine for Syria - fully complied with the Government's position that exported equipment must not be used for internal repression.
The committees - made up of members of the Business, Defence, Foreign Affairs and International Development Committees - also strongly rebuked ministers for classifying equipment such as sniper rifles, submachine guns and armoured fighting vehicles as "crowd control goods".
The report said the revocation on human rights grounds of an unprecedented 158 licences since the start of the Arab Spring last year showed that ministers needed to be more cautious about issuing them.
"Whilst the promotion of arms exports and the upholding of human rights are both legitimate Government policies, the Government would do well to acknowledge that there is an inherent conflict between strongly promoting arms exports to authoritarian regimes whilst strongly criticising their lack of human rights at the same time," it said. "Whilst the Government's statement that 'respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms are mandatory considerations for all export licence applications' is welcome, those considerations do not appear to have weighed sufficiently heavily on either the present Government or its predecessor."
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