21 April 2011
New report shows that UK kept exporting arms to Libya through 2010
The UK government continued to licence significant amounts of arms for export to Libya till the end of 2010. The figures are contained in the 2010 fourth quarter listings in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office's Strategic Export Control Reports. The figures reveal licences were approved for military and dual-use equipment over the quarter, totalling £3.76 million. These included components for combat aircraft and over £446,000 worth of small arms equipment, including "weapon sights" and "weapon night sights".
The figures reveal the approval of many temporary licences - presumably for UK equipment demonstrated at the the Libdex arms fair held in Tripoli in November 2010. These licences included assault rifles, sniper rifles, machine guns and semi-automatic pistols. They also included crowd control equipment such as anti-riot/ballistic shields, smoke canisters and stun grenades as well as military combat vehicles and military communications equipment.
Other arms export licences issued to Libya in 2010 included sniper rifles, wall and door breaching projectile launchers, crowd control ammunition, small arms ammunition, tear gas/irritant ammunition and training tear gas/irritant ammunition.
The UK also licensed weapons and dual-use equipment for export to Bahrain. In the last quarter of 2010 these included ammunition and components for small arms. Earlier in the year licences were issued for tear gas and crowd control ammunition, equipment for the use of aircraft cannons, assault rifles, shotguns, sniper rifles and sub-machine guns.
On 18 February 2011 the UK government revoked eight licences for Libya and 44 licences for Bahrain in response to their governments' brutal suppression of protests. It has since revoked 156 arms export export licences to the Middle East and North Africa, and implemented an arms embargo on Libya in response to UN Resolution 1973.
The largest customers for UK weapons in the region remained Saudi Arabia and the Gulf States. Licences in the fourth quarter to Saudi Arabia totalled £279 million, to Oman £361 million, and to the United Arab Emirates £6 million.
Kaye Stearman for Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT) says:
These most recent figures show that the UK government was more than happy to promote and sell arms to authoritarian regimes in Libya and Bahrain just weeks before these same regimes acted against peaceful protesters asking for basic human rights. The government must have realised that these weapons were likely to be used for internal repression. This latest report reinforces our call for an immediate arms embargo on the Middle East and North Africa and an end to arms exports to repressive regimes.
For further information or an interview please contact CAAT's Media Coordinator, Kaye Stearman on 020 7281 0297 or mobile 07990 673 232 or email press(at)caat·org·uk.
- Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT) works for the reduction and ultimate abolition of the international arms trade. Around 80% of CAAT's income is raised from individual supporters.
- The arms export licensing process is carried out by the Export Controls Organisation based in the Department of Business Innovation and Skills, with input from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO), with reports published quarterly by the FCO. The report for the fourth quarter of 2010 was published in the week of 18 April 2011.
- The government's arms sales promotion unit is UK Trade & Investment Defence & Security Organisation (UKTI DSO). UKTI now employs 160 civil servants to sell arms, which represent only 1.5% of exports.
- UKTI DSO has listed Libya as priority market country, and had a team resident in Tripoli. It invited Libya to attend UK arms fairs, the Farnborough Airshow in 2010 and Defence and Security Equipment International (DSEi) in 2009. The UK had by far the largest pavilion at Libya's arms fair LibDex in 2010, and was supported by a team from UKTI DSO.
- UKTI DSO has listed Bahrain as a key market for UK arms exports. It invited Bahrain to attend UK arms fairs, the Farnborough Airshow in 2010 and Defence and Security Equipment International (DSEi) in 2009. UKTI DSO supported the Bahrain International Airshow 2010, where it organised an outdoor event. It has used UK armed forces in support of sales efforts, demonstrating arms to the Royal Bahrain Artillery.
- Members of the government have aggressively promoted arms exports. Peter Luff, Defence Equipment Minister, has said: "There will be a very, very, very heavy ministerial commitment to (arms sales). There is a sense that in the past we were rather embarrassed about exporting defence products. There is no such embarrassment in this Government." Gerald Howarth, International Security Strategy Minister, said in November 2010: "This government has been very clear from the outset and so have I: we are proud to support the biggest defence exports drive in decades." David Cameron was accompanied on his visit to the Middle East in February by the representatives of eight arms companies but insisted the UK "has nothing to be ashamed of."
- The annual report of the parliamentary Committees on Arms Export Controls published on 5 April 2011 was highly critical of the government's arms export policy and stated that successive governments had "misjudged the risk that arms approved for export to certain authoritarian countries in North Africa and the Middle East might be used for internal repression." It also posed the question of how the government: "intends to reconcile the potential conflict of interest between increased emphasis on promoting arms exports with the staunch upholding of human rights."