A belief in human rights? Preaching to others about improving accountability? It’s all empty rhetoric by most/all Western governments, including Britain.
Evidence for the prosecution (via Independent):
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.
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.