UK MPs criticise governments for arms exports

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UK MPs criticise governments for arms exports

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British parliamentarians of the Committees on Arms Export Controls have slammed – in a report – past and present governments over sales of weapons to countries where they could be used against protesters.

The risk that arms approved for export to certain authoritarian countries in North Africa and the Middle East might be used for internal repression was “misjudged” by the present government and its predecessor, the MPs said.

“The government’s decision to revoke a considerable number of arms export licences to Bahrain, Egypt, Libya and Tunisia is very welcome,” said the report.

Libya, Bahrain and Egypt are among countries that UK arms have been recently sold to. The cross-party group’s chair, Sir John Stanley, said the committees welcomed the government “vigorously back-pedalling on arms exports,” although the number of licences revoked since January, almost 160, “reflects the degree of policy misjudgement that has occurred.”

It appears that the British government was responding to recent events in the Arab world where many protesters have been subject to violent behaviour of their governments.

According to the report, some 62 standard individual export licences to Libya were revoked between 18 February and 3 March, while 23 licences were revoked on 18 February for exports to Bahrain. Egypt and Tunisia had their share of the measures.

“Respect for human rights and freedoms are mandatory considerations for all export licence applications and we do not export equipment where there is a clear risk it could be used for internal repression,” a government spokesman was cited by the BBC as saying. He added the UK operated “one of the most robust and transparent arms exports control systems in the world.”

By Ali Sheikholeslami
London Correspondent