Arms: House of Commons committee report slams government failures

NGOs call on Government to respond to report's findings 

  The Government must urgently respond to calls for a thorough and transparent review of all arms export licences to the Middle East and North Africa, which were outlined in today’s report by the Committee on Arms Export Controls, warned the Control Arms Campaign Alliance (5 April).    The Committee on Arms Export Controls (CAEC) report includes a call for the review to be subjected to Parliamentary scrutiny.    The warning came after the Control Arms Campaign – which includes Amnesty International, Oxfam and Saferworld -- expressed concern about the Government’s internal review of arms export licences to Libya. This review, which is in response to recent revelations of UK arms export licences to countries in the Middle East including Libya and Bahrain, risks being hastily carried out without adequate consultation with all relevant experts.    Oxfam’s Head of Control Arms Campaign, Anna MacDonald said:  “This is a review about the export of deadly weapons, not toys or potatoes. The government needs to conduct this review with due care and consideration. It needs to be a thorough review and should not be rushed through. This is not a tick-box exercise. It has grave implications for the lives of people around the globe. As a global leader, the UK needs to ensure it does its utmost to get this right."    The CAEC report also highlights how successive governments have failed to identify the risk of exporting weapons to countries such as Libya and Bahrain, where grave human rights violations have been committed and where there is a high risk of internal repression.   Amnesty International’s UK Arms Programme Director Oliver Sprague said: “Plainly decisions made in the past on arms sales to Middle East and North Africa have been wrong.  Today’s Committee report have concurred with our findings that successive governments have ‘misjudged the risk’ of weapons going to that region.   “Licences should be rejected where there is a clear risk that equipment would be used in human rights abuses.  Government decisions to license ammunition and crowd control equipment to Libya, for example, were clearly wrong.   “The review of the government’s export licensing regime must remedy this situation as a matter of urgency.  It must be conducted in a transparent and thorough way.    “As we have seen on the streets of various cities, this must include crowd control equipment and ammunition. Current events show that the need for active leadership on negotiations for the UN Arms Treaty is more pressing than ever.”

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