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UK urged to review arms export deals

6th April 2011 - 19:15 GMT | by The Shephard News Team


The UK government has been urged to widen its review of UK arms export licenses beyond simply North Africa and the Middle East to include all regimes that may use arms for ‘internal repression’.

A report from the influential Committees on Arms Export Controls, released on 5 April, accuses the government of ‘vigorously backpedalling’ on its arms exports to North Africa and the Middle East as a result of recent uprisings and demonstrations. 

The report lists the Standard Individual Export Licences (SIEL) and Open Individual Export Licenses (OIEL) removed from Bahrain, Egypt, Libya and Tunisia between 27 January and 3 March as well as giving country-by-country examples of export license approvals since January 2009 for the first time.

‘The committees welcome these revocations of arms export licenses 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 committee chairman Sir John Stanley.

The committee recommended that the government: provides it with full details on arms export licenses since January; states what considerations of arms exports is carried out within the National Security Strategy and at meetings of the National Security Council; and states the outcome of its review of arms exports to the wider Middle East region.

In addition, it asked the government to state what changes it will make to improve its arms export control procedures and judgements about the risk of arms exported from the UK while also urging the government to extend immediately its review of arms export licenses.

However, Ian Godden, chairman of the A/D/S defence trade organisation, commented: ‘Exports of UK defence equipment are stringently policed by some of the strictest export control rules in the world that implement all the international commitments made by the government to the EU, UK and other international bodies.

‘Some countries in the wider Middle East are still seen as a potential future growth market for the UK defence industry given strong sales to certain Gulf nations and the resulting, continuing good partnerships between these countries and the UK.’

The report said that the review of revoked SIELs and OIELs was ongoing as the situation in these regions is monitored.

‘We further conclude that the government’s decision to revoke a considerable number of arms export licenses to Bahrain, Egypt, Libya and Tunisia is very welcome,’ the committees said.

The Shephard News Team


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