Report from Independent (1) and Times of Israel (2); extracts from the Report from House of Commons Committees on Arms Export Control (3), Notes and links (4)
Government approves thousands of deals with states it condemns for human rights abuses
By Kim Sengupta, Defence correspondent, The Independent
July 17, 2013
The Government has issued more than 3,000 export licences for military and intelligence equipment worth a total of £12.3bn to countries which are on its own official list for human rights abuses.
Click image to enlarge graphic
The existence of one licence to Israel and the Occupied Territories has not been made public until today. Worth £7.7bn, it relates to cryptographic equipment, which has dual defence and civilian use.
The scale and detail of the deals emerged after a forensic investigation by a committee of MPs, who also discovered that strategically controlled items have been sent to Iran, China, Sri Lanka, Russia, Belarus and Zimbabwe – all of which feature prominently on the Foreign Office’s list of states with worrying civil rights records.
There are even three existing contracts for Syria, notwithstanding the fact that the UK is sending equipment to rebels fighting the Assad regime and is considering arming them. There are also 57 for Argentina, which is not on the list, but which remains in confrontation with Britain over the Falklands.
The Government had stated that it would not issue export licences for goods “which might be used to facilitate internal repression” or “might provoke or prolong regional or internal conflicts”.
However, the report by the Committees on Arms Export Controls** found there were 62 licences for selling to Iran, again overwhelmingly cryptographic equipment. This also features heavily in the 271 licences for Russia, along with biotechnology equipment, sniper rifles, laser weapons systems, weapon sights and unmanned air vehicles (drones).
Both countries have been involved in large-scale supplies of weaponry to President Assad, and members of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards have been on the ground, supporting regime forces, in Syria. The committee points out that the contracts should be examined both on grounds of “internal oppression” and “prolonging regional conflicts”.
The Syrian licences are for components for four-wheel drive vehicles with ballistic protection, which is believed to have been for an aid organisation. But there are also hydrophone arrays, which can be used to listen underwater. The report points out that the latter have a dual use and the Government needs to confirm that it is not breaking international sanctions against Syria.
Yesterday William Hague, the Foreign Secretary, announced that hoods offering protection against chemical weapons would be sent to the Syrian rebels. There have been persistent reports of the regime using sarin nerve gas.
The suppliers to China have the largest numbers of licences, with 1,163 worth £ 1.8bn. As well as cryptographic equipment, this includes direct military communications equipment, body armour and weapons sights.
The committee urged the Government to examine whether this infringes the EU’s arms embargo on Beijing and whether it should, in fact, seek to expand the embargo to include all military goods.
On Argentina the report is not only critical of the existing contracts, which consist mainly of cryptographic components, small arms ammunition and lasers, but the failure to press allies not to supply Buenos Aires with arms.
It states: “The committee concluded that it is reprehensible that the Government, given the relatively recent history of British ships being sunk in the Falklands War by missiles supplied by a Nato member [French Exocets], is unwilling to lobby other governments.”
The MPs noted that the Argentine Foreign Minister recently stated: “I don’t think it will take another 20 years” to retake the islands.
Only two states of 27 on the Foreign Office’s human rights list – North Korea and South Sudan –did not have licences to their names. Among the others, Saudi Arabia has 417 licences with a value of £1.8bn; Pakistan 219 worth almost £50m; Sri Lanka 49 at £8m and Zimbabwe 46, worth just under £3m.
Sir John Stanley, the chairman of the committee and a former Defence minister, said he had decided to carry out the inquiry into arms licences after the Foreign Office began to publish its human rights reports. He added: “When I first wrote to Vince Cable [the Business Secretary] I had no idea that the figures involved would be so large – I thought someone may have added some zeros by mistake; £12bn is an absolutely huge sum. I asked Vince Cable to confirm they were accurate and, apart from a small adjustment for Iran, they all were.
“We shall continue to seek more clarification from the Government. We would like to know, for example, whether the cryptographic equipment can be used on internal dissent, and its possible military use.
“There are other, quite clear areas of concern; 600 assault rifles were sold to Sri Lanka, despite the very well documented cases of human rights abuse there. We have to ask the Government why this is the case.
“The Government needs to acknowledge that there’s an inherent conflict between strongly promoting arms exports to authoritarian regimes whilst strongly criticising their lack of human rights at the same time. Instead they continue to claim these two policies ‘are mutually reinforcing’.”
Despite human rights doubts, UK to export arms to Israel
Jewish state cited alongside Iran, China, Libya and Syria among countries where Britain has wide-ranging concerns
By Cassandra Vinograd, AP/Times of Israel
July 17, 2013
LONDON — Britain has issued more than 3,000 licenses allowing the export of arms and military equipment to countries where the UK has concerns about human rights, according to a report from lawmakers published Wednesday.
The House of Commons Committees on Arms Export Controls said the combined value of the individual export licenses came to more than 12 billion pounds ($18.1 billion). It urged the government to exercise more caution in approving applications for the export of arms to countries with authoritarian regimes.
Britain’s Foreign Office has a list of 27 nations where the U.K. government has wide-ranging concerns about the human rights situation, including Myanmar, China, Iran, Iraq, Israel, Libya and Syria. According to the report, all but two of the 27 — North Korea and South Sudan — have valid export licenses in play. Among the countries of concern*, the largest number of licenses were issued for exports to China, Saudi Arabia and Israel.
While it said many of the licenses were for items “not readily usable” for internal repression, the committees said a “surprisingly large” number of licenses were issued to exporters sending arms to countries where human rights are a concern.
The scale of the licenses “puts into stark relief the inherent conflict between the government’s arms exports and human rights policies,” said John Stanley, chairman of the committees.
“The committees adhere to their previous recommendation that the government should apply significantly more cautious judgments when considering arms export license applications for goods to authoritarian regimes ‘which might be used to facilitate internal repression’ in contravention of the government’s stated policy.”
In response to the report, the British government stressed it takes its export responsibilities “very seriously” and that it has “one of the most rigorous arms export control regimes,” under which licenses are not granted when there is deemed to be a risk that goods would be used for internal repression or to provoke or prolong conflict in the countries they are exported to.
The government added in a statement that all of the licenses highlighted in the committees’ report had been “fully assessed” against a range of strident criteria to ensure goods would not be used for internal repression, to provoke or prolong conflict within a country, used aggressively against another country or risk Britain’s national security.
The Committees on Arms Export Controls is made up of the House of Commons defense, foreign affairs, international development and business, innovation and skills committees.
Report from House of Commons Committees on Arms Export Control
THE CHEMICAL WEAPONS CONVENTION
20. The Committees recommend, in relation to the Chemical Weapons Convention, that the Government states what specific steps it will take to try to secure accession to the Convention by those 8 states who have not done so thus far, namely Angola, Egypt, Israel, Myanmar, North Korea, Somalia, South Sudan and Syria.
THE COMPREHENSIVE NUCLEAR TEST BAN TREATY
22. On the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty (CTBT), the Committees recommend that the Government states what specific steps it is taking with each of the remaining 8 countries whose signature and ratification is necessary to enable the CTBT to enter into force—namely China, Egypt, India, Iran, Israel, North Korea, Pakistan and the USA—to try to persuade them to ratify the CTBT.
ARMS EXPORTS TO COUNTRIES OF CONCERN*
26. [ Israel (and the OPT) was awarded SIELS to the value of £7,878,776,714, by far the most lucrative of all countries of concern to which the UK exports military material.(SIELS are Standard Individual Export Licences, in which the destination, company and end-user have to be named. Export licences are issued by the Export Control Organisation, a department of the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills.) The second most valuable export market amongst countries of concern, by value of SIELS, was Saudi Arabia, at 1,863,182,251.
67. The Committees recommend that in its Response the Government states:
c) what steps it is taking to encourage the United States, Russia, China and Israel to become signatories and/or to ratify the Convention;
THE MISSILE TECHNOLOGY CONTROL REGIME
73. The Government has stated that the main missile technology exporters who remain outside the Missile Technology Control Regime include China, Israel, India and Pakistan. The Committees recommend that the Government states in its Response with which of those countries it has had, or will be having, discussions about membership of the MTCR.
THE NUCLEAR SUPPLIERS GROUP
75. The Government has stated that the major technology holders who remain outside of the Nuclear Suppliers Group include India, Pakistan and Israel, and that suppliers of dual-use technology who are not members include the UAE, Malaysia and Singapore. The Committees recommend that the Government states in its Response with which of those countries it has had, or will be having, discussions about membership of the Nuclear Suppliers Group.
THE CHEMICAL WEAPONS CONVENTION (CWC)
78. The Committees recommend that the Government states in its Response:
a) how far it considers that its objectives for the Chemical Weapons Review Conference as set out in the Written Answer of FCO Minister Alistair Burt on 26 March 2013 were, or were not, fulfilled; and
b) what specific steps it will take to try to secure accession to the Convention by those 8 states who have not done so thus far, namely Angola, Egypt, Israel, Myanmar, North Korea, Somalia, South Sudan and Syria.
THE COMPREHENSIVE NUCLEAR TEST BAN TREATY
82. The Committees recommend that the Government states in its Response what specific steps it is taking with each of the remaining 8 countries whose signature and ratification is necessary to enable the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty to enter into force—namely China, Egypt, India, Iran, Israel, North Korea, Pakistan and the USA—to try to persuade them to ratify the CTBT.
BA MIDDLE EAST WEAPONS OF MASS DESTRUCTION FREE ZONE
84. The Committees recommend that the Government states in its Response:
a) when it expects the planned regional conference to discuss a Middle East Weapons of Mass Destruction Free Zone to take place;
b) what are the current positions of Iran and Israel on attending this conference; and
c) what steps it is taking to try to ensure this Conference takes place.
99. The Committees have made individual Recommendations in respect of 16 out of the 32 Countries of concern. These 16 Countries of concern are: Afghanistan, China, Iran, Iraq, Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories, Libya, Saudi Arabia, Sri Lanka, Syria, Uzbekistan, Yemen, Argentina, Bahrain, Egypt, Madagascar and Tunisia. These individual Recommendations are set out in paragraphs 385 to 501 in the Memorandum from the Chairman of the Committees.
ISRAEL AND THE OCCUPIED PALESTINIAN TERRITORIES
105. The Committees recommend that the Government in its Response to this Report states whether it is satisfied that none of the 381 extant UK export licences to Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories:
a) contravenes the Government’s stated policy that: “We will not issue licences where we judge there is a clear risk that the proposed export might provoke or prolong regional or internal conflicts, or which might be used to facilitate internal repression”; or
b) is currently in contravention of any of the arms exports Criteria set out in the UK’s Consolidated Criteria and the EU Common Position
including those extant licences to Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories for: all-wheel drive vehicles with ballistic protection; body armour, components for body armour, military helmets, components for pistols, components for body armour, components for all-wheel drive vehicles with ballistic protection, components for assault rifles, components for pistols, components for equipment employing cryptography, components for military communications equipment, cryptographic software, equipment employing cryptography, software for equipment employing cryptography, software for the use of equipment employing cryptography, general military vehicle components, military support vehicles, small arms ammunition, technology for equipment employing cryptography, technology for the development of equipment employing cryptography, technology for the use of equipment employing cryptography, weapon sights, military communications equipment and components for small arms ammunition.
Notes and links
* FCO countries of concern
The FCO has increased the list of 27 to 30 with the addition of the three countries in square brackets
Afghanistan, [Bahrain,] Belarus, Burma, [Chad,] China, Colombia, Cuba,
Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Democratic Republic of Congo,
[Eritrea,] Ethiopia, Fiji, Iran, Iraq,
Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories,
Libya, Pakistan, Russia,
Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Sri Lanka, South Sudan, Sudan, Syria,
Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Vietnam, Yemen, Zimbabwe.
The Committees on Arms Export Controls consist of four select committees meeting and working together: Business, Innovation and Skills; Defence; Foreign Affairs; and International Development Committees.