Time to get tough on arms exports, Britain

The UK Government really needs to tighten its arms exports controls.  That’s the message which rang out loud and clear from today’s report by the four Parliamentary Select Committees. And it’s something which Amnesty would definitely agree with.

As arms expert Oliver Sprague pointed out in Amnesty’s statement today, serious problems remain with UK arms export controls that need to be addressed quickly – otherwise a small but significant number of UK weapons and components will continue being used to commit grievous human rights abuses around the world.
 
The Select Committees report raised several issues, some of which the government is aware of – their reluctance to tighten controls on components exports, and what the government were not aware of – that UK arms dealers were selling ex-Soviet weapons to blacklisted countries.

The New Statesman reports that the Government will launch an investigation into these claims.  Let’s hope it’s a speedy one.

The government also needs to set about closing the loopholes on exporting components which can be used to make equipment which can be assembled elsewhere and then be sent to countries where they are used to kill civilians. They promised to tighten these laws in 2007, after Land Rover components were transferred to Turkey, where they were then assembled into military vehicles which ended up being used to crackdown on peaceful protestors in Uzbekistan in 2005.

Four years after that massacre, we’re still waiting.   If the Government wants to be taken seriously on the international stage when discussing wider issues of controls on weapons transfers, then surely it needs to ensure that its own house is in order.

On a separate but not unrelated point, you may be interested to read Ghaith Abdul-Ahad’s report in today’s Guardian on the trade in weapons and drugs Afghanistan.  Shocking stuff.

Til the next time

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Our blogs are written by Amnesty International staff, volunteers and other interested individuals, to encourage debate around human rights issues. They do not necessarily represent the views of Amnesty International.
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