The UK government has approved more than 3,000 export licences for military sales to countries which it believes have questionable records on human rights including Sri Lanka.
A BC report quoted the House of Commons Committees on Arms Export Controls as saying the value of the existing export licences to the 27 countries in question exceeds £12bn.
The chairman, Conservative MP Sir John Stanley, said he was astonished at the scale and value of the licences.
Arms licences to Sri Lanka included pistols, small arms ammunition and approval for the sale of 600 assault rifles, which he said “raised very serious questions”.
The report says that whilst the promotion of arms exports and the upholding of human rights are both legitimate government policies, 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, rather than claiming, as the government continues to do, that these two policies ‘are mutually reinforcing.
There were more than 60 licences for Iran, including components for military electronics and what is described as “equipment employing cryptography”.
This appears to be a catch-all term which encompasses a variety of equipment, much of it in the telecommunications sector.
Similar equipment figured prominently in China’s £1.4bn worth of licences, which also included some small arms ammunition, even though there is a European Union arms embargo on Beijing.
Sir John told the BBC that in his view the EU embargo “was not drafted as widely as many people would wish”.