2012 will see the UK government send arms trade missions to countries who use violent repression against protestors. Countries include traditional customers such as Saudi Arabia and Libya as well as less prominent markets, including Kazakhstan and Nigeria. Mission delegations include arms company executives and are organised by UK Trade & Investment Defence & Security Organisation (UKTI DSO), the government’s arms sales promotion unit.
Arms export guidelines state that licences will only be granted if the importer country can meet certain conditions including:
- respect of human rights and fundemental freedoms
- the existence of tensions or armed conflict
- the preservation of regional peace, security and stability.
Yet many of the countries where UKTI DSO is scheduled to visit and/or to participate in exhibitions violate these guidelines. Several countries have poor human rights records, including Colombia, India, Kazakhstan, Nigeria, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Vietnam.
Meanwhile, the UK continues to export arms to Bahrain and Egypt, countries with proven human rights abuses against civilian protesters. On 21 November in a BBC interview Foreign Secretary William Hague said that the violence in Egypt was
of great concern while simultaneously stating that the UK wouuld
not be taking sides. On 12 December in the House of Commons Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, Alistair Burt, stated that there would be no arms embargo on Egypt.
Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT) has urged the government to stop arms sales to all countries with repressive regimes. Kaye Stearman, spokesperson for CAAT, says:
In the past week we have seen video evidence of police violence against protesters in Khazakhstan while there is continuing concern about the actions of security forces in Nigeria. Meanwhile daily violence continues in Bahrain and Egypt, yet the UK still exports weapons to both countries.
2011 brought us the Arab Spring uprisings and the overthrow of abusive rulers bolstered by western weaponry. Yet the UK government seems to have learned nothing from these events. The government revoked some arms export licences but arms sales missions continue, with authoritarian regimes among the prime targets. We urge the government to make a clean break in 2012 and stop arms sales to all authoritarian regimes, in the Middle East and elsewhere
- 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 80% of CAAT’s income is raised from individual supporters.
- Answering a question from Teresa Pearce MP, Mr Prisk also said UKTI would be sending trade missions and be participating in arms fairs in 24 foreign countries during the remainder of the financial year. It also plans to attend arms fairs and security forums in Dubai in January, Singapore in February, Dubai in March and India in March-April. Other countries where UKTI DSO has scheduled arms trade missions iin 2012 include: Colombia, India, Libya and Turkey in February and Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Vietnam in March. The full answer by Mark Prisk is listed as Column 222W in Hansard.
- In Kazakhstan police fired on sacked oil industry workers in the southwest city of Zhanozen on 15 December, reportedly killing ten workers. There have since been incidents in other areas of the region. In recent years, the UK has sold considerable amounts of military and dual use goods to the resource rich country, reaching a peak of £117 million in 2008. The former chairman of arms giant BAE Systems, Sir Richard Evans, is now a director of state company Samruk, that controls around 40% of Kazakhstan’s domestic product. In 2011, Kazakhstan was invited to attend the Defence & Security Equipment International (DSEI) arms fair in London. UKTI plans an arms trade mission to Kazakhstan in February 2012.
- In Nigeria there have been frequent allegations of military, policy and paramilitary repression against protestors. For example in July 2011, Amnesty International reported that the Joint Military Task Force had killed at least 25 people and wounded a further 45 in northern Nigeria while hunting down Islamic militants. In 2011, Nigeria was invited to attend DSEI arms fair in London. UKTI DSO has scheduled an arms trade mission to Nigeria in February 2012.
- Alistair Burt was answering a question from Caroline Lucas MP – his answer can be found here listed as Column 602/3W in Hansard.