MPs call for scrutiny of arms exports to Israel and Sri Lanka

August 21, 2009 at 4:31 pm 1 comment

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The Committees on Arms Export Controls have published their their annual report, which includes scrutiny of export licences granted in 2008.

The four select C0mmittees that  meet and wok together on the issue are: Business and Enterprise, Defence, Foreign Affairs and International Development Committees.

These four Committees have worked together since 1999 to examine the Government’s expenditure, administration and policy on strategic exports, that is the licensing of arms exports and other controlled goods.

They reported that components supplied by the UK were almost certainly used in a variety of ways by Israeli forces during the recent conflict in Gaza.

They called on the Government to continue to do everything possible to ensure that this does not happen in future.

“We conclude that the Government is correct to assess the granting of licences for export on a case-by-case basis and we endorse decisions not to grant a number of licences in relation to Israel,” the committees reported.

“This includes the refusal of licences to supply a variety of components for end-use by Israel since the war in Lebanon in 2006.

“We further conclude that the Government’s review of extant licences relating to Israel is to be welcomed, as is its stated intention of assessing the need to revoke any which should be reconsidered in light of the Gaza conflict.

“We recommend that the Government keep us informed of the progress of the review, of whether or not the Government chooses to revoke any licences and whether the Government believes that its eventual position has implications for the UK’s defence relationships with either the USA or Israel itself, or for the operational capabilities of the UK’s armed forces.”

On Sri Lanka, the committees backed the case-by-case approach but recommended that the Government should review all existing licences relating to Sri Lanka, “and provide in its Response an assessment of what implications the situation in Sri Lanka will have on how the Foreign and Commonwealth Office judges the possible future use of strategic exports by that country and the risk that the export licensing criteria might be breached.”

They recommended an assessment of what UK supplied weapons, ammunition, parts and components were used by the Sri Lankan armed forces in the recent military actions against the Tamil Tigers.

They also backed the British Government and the EU’s arms embargo on China, and requested an update on its assessment of the human rights situation in China and of the adequacy of the current arms embargo in place.

Roger Berry MP, Chairman of the Committees on Arms Export Control, said:

“The UK has a responsibility to ensure that its arms export industry, and individual UK citizens, working overseas are not engaging in the illegal arms trade and therefore we remain convinced that there is a need for a registration system for arms brokers.

“In addition, the Government must now work with NGOs and industry to bring forward draft proposals on extending the extra-territorial provisions of export control legislation.”

Click here to read the report.

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