Legal action launched against UK Government’s arms to Indonesia policy

A human rights activist from Aceh, Indonesia has today launched proceedings against the UK Government challenging by Judicial Review the legality of the UK’s supply of arms to Indonesia. Mr Aguswandi claims the continued licensing of military exports to Indonesia breaks UK and EU export control laws which clearly state that export licences for weapons should be refused if there is a risk of the equipment being used for internal repression.

Although since 1997 the Labour Government has introduced new criteria governing the licensing of arms exports, it has continued to licence the sale of lethal equipment to the Indonesian military. This is despite the repeated use by the Indonesian Army of UK-supplied equipment to commit human rights violations.

UK-supplied tanks (Scorpions and Saladins), armoured personnel carriers (Saracens) and tactical fighter aircraft (Hawk) have been used in conflict situations in East Timor, Aceh, West Papua and the Moluccas in the last four years, despite Indonesian and UK Government assurances that UK equipment would not be used for internal repression. The financial value of arms exports to Indonesia licensed by the UK Government has leapt from £2 million in 2000 to £41 million in 2002.

Currently UK equipment (Scorpion tanks, Saracen armoured personnel carriers, and Hawk aircraft) are being used in the war in Aceh. The Indonesian military have launched several offensives in the last few years in response to the Free Aceh Movement’s (GAM) fight for independence, with violence escalating dramatically since May 2003 when martial law was declared. The operation is causing widespread civilian loss of life, the destruction of Aceh’s public infrastructure, and a grave humanitarian crisis. Despite the violence, the Government in August 2002 relaxed the conditions under which licences to Indonesia were granted, allowing UK equipment to be used in Aceh.

CAAT spokesman Nicholas Gilby said:

CAAT and TAPOL fully support this legal action. We are sick of the Government’s hypocrisy in licensing weapons sales to a military with one of the worst human rights records in the world, while proclaiming to be a liberator of the oppressed.

The Indonesian military in recent years has committed crimes against humanity in East Timor, defied UN Security Council resolutions and slaughtered its own people with impunity. The Government are fully aware of this and that Indonesian assurances on the use of UK weapons are worthless.

CAAT and TAPOL therefore demand the Government respect the law and stop licensing the sale of weapons which are used to abuse the human rights of innocent civilians.


For more information contact:
Paul Barber at TAPOL or the CAAT office on 020 7281 0297.

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