British arms exports under fire in parliament

LONDON, July 17, 2013 (AFP) – Britain has issued export licences worth £12 billion ($18 billion, 14 billion euros) for the sale of military equipment to states deemed possible rights violators including Syria, Iran and China, lawmakers said Wednesday. But the report also raised concerns about a further five countries for which licences were issued: Argentina, Bahrain, Egypt, Madagascar and Tunisia.

Argentina was included on the list because of renewed tensions over the British-held Falkland Islands.

Rights group Amnesty International called for more transparency over what kind of equipment Britain was exporting.

“It would be hard not to conclude that the UK government’s arms sales practices are at odds with its stated policy not to send weapons to anywhere that poses a clear risk that they could be used for human rights violations,” Amnesty’s arms control expert Oliver Sprague said. A report by a group of parliamentary committees said that 3,000 licences for arms and other equipment had been issued to countries on the Foreign Office’s list of 27 countries of human rights concerns.

The countries for which licences have been issued include Sri Lanka, Saudi Arabia, Russia, Belarus and Zimbawe, the Committees on Arms Export Controls of