23 July 2012
One year on from the Arab Spring the UK is still arming despots
New government figures for arms export licences reveal that the UK government is still happy to sell weaponry to authoritarian regimes in the Middle East and north Africa (MENA), where there is a high probability that they will be used for internal repression.
The figures for "strategic export licences" for the first quarter were issued by the Department for Business Innovation and Skills (BIS) in the same week as the report of the parliamentary Committees on Arms Export Controls which heavily criticised the government for selling arms to MENA countries which the Foreign and Commonwealth Office had classified as "countries of concern" because of their repression and human rights abuses.
The CAEC report scrutinised government policies and practices on arms exports, paying particular attention to the discrepancies in government policies, stating: "the Government would do well to acknowledge that there is an inherent conflict between strongly promoting arms exports to authoritarian regimes whilst strongly criticising their lack of human rights at the same time."
One aspect highlighted by the CAEC report was the issue of "priority markets" in MENA countries for UK arms exports. The report requested that: "the Government sets out fully the reasons why Libya and Saudi Arabia remain within the UK Trade & Investmnent Defence & Security Organisation's Priority Markets list for 20111/12 when both countries are also listed by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in its latest Human Rights and Democracy Annual Report as being Countries of Concern."
Kaye Stearman of Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT) said:
The CAEC report rightly focuses on the shameless way that the UK Government sold arms to repressive regimes who then turned those arms on their own people. Yet the government still pursues these so-called "priority markets", with government ministers entertaining military delegations at the Farnborough arms fair, while talking about the need to limit weaponry at Arms Trade Treaty negotations in New York.
The latest data reveals a situation in which arms licences, including for items such as small arms, body armour and armoured military vehicles, are issued routinely to highly repressive governments. A year after the beginning of the Arab Spring, it seems nothing has changed in UK government policy or practice on arms sales.
Analysis - January-March 2012:
Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT) has analysed the first quarter figures for arms export licences to governments in MENA countries.
The UK government issued military list export licences worth £606m during the first quarter of 2012. of which £138 million were for MENA countries. Of the £1,285 million worth of "dual use" goods (ie can be used for military or civilian use), £879 million went to MENA countries. In addition, there were many "open licences" for both military and dual use goods where values were not listed.
Arms export licences to Saudi Arabia were worth £80 million, of which £77.5 million was for combat aircraft. Not a single licence was refused.
Egypt was issued with £12 million worth of arms licences (much higher than usual), of which £11.97 million were for components for "projectile launchers". There were also several OIELs (open licences which cover many items where no value is attached) and OITCLs (similar but for items which are to be traded between countries) which included small arms and body armour, which can be used in internal repression.
Arms export licences to Bahrain were worth £330,000. of which over £200,000 was for military communications equipment. There were no licence refusals.
There were significant arms exports approved for other MENA countries, including Oman, with over £14 million worth of military list goods, including pistols,imaging equipment and communications equipment, and the United Arab Emirates with £6.4 million worth of arms, including small arms, machine guns, night sights and military vehicle components.
Turkey was also a major customer, with arms export licences issued worth over £15 million, including £8 million for components and weapons sights for incorporation into arms manufactured in Turkey for export, and over £2 million for military aircraft and military vehicle components.
For further information contact CAAT's Media Co-ordinator Kaye Stearman on 0207 281 0287 or or mobile 07990 673 232 or email Kaye Stearman.
1. Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT) in the UK works to end the international arms trade. The arms business has a devastating impact on human rights and society and damages economic development. Large-scale military procurement and arms exports only reinforce a militaristic approach to international problems. Around 75% of CAAT's income is raised from individual supporters.
2. The arms export licensing process is carried out by the Export Controls Organisation based in the Department of Business Innovation & Skills, with input from the Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO), with reports published quarterly by the FCO. The statistics for the first quarter of 2012 were published in the week of 9 July 2012 and the figures were made available in the format of CAAT's Arms Export App on CAAT website in the following week.
3. The annual report of the parliamentary Committees on Arms Export Controls published on 13 July 2012 was highly critical of the government's arms export licencing policy and practice. The report and CAAT's initial response is available here.
4. The UK Government PDF "Strategic Annual Export Controls Annual Report" was released in the week of 16 July 2012.
5. The Foreign & Commonwealth Office Human Rights Report is available on the FCO website.
6. The Farnborough International arms fair, which took place from 9-15 July, was attended by over 70 military delegations from 46 countries, invited by the UK government. They included delegations from Bahrain and Saudi Arabia. Fifteen UK government ministers attended the fair including Prime Minister David Cameron, Business Secretary Vince Cable, Defence Secretary Philip Hammond, Transport Secretary Justine Greening, Business Minister Mark Prisk, Minister for Defence Equipment Peter Luff, Minister for International Security Strategy Gerald Howarth, Trade Minister Lord Green and Aviation Secretary Theresa Villers. Mr Howarth reported that he had 15 meetings with overseas delegations. Among the arms companies exhibiting their wares were Lockheed Martin, BAE Systems, Boeing, general Dynamics, Raytheon, EADS, Finmeccanica, L-3G Communications, United Technologies, Thales and Rosoboronexport, the Russian arms company that is the main arms supplier to Syria.
7. 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.