£ 17bn of UK guns sold to rights abusers | The arms trade

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Two-thirds of countries classified as “non-free” because of their dire human rights and civil liberties record have received licensed guns from the UK government in the past decade, new analysis reveals.

Between 2011-2020, the UK conceded £ 16.8 billion worth of arms to countries criticized by Liberty house, a human rights group funded by the US government.

Of the 53 countries blasted for a poor political and human rights record on the group’s list, the UK has sold arms and military equipment to 39.

Notable beneficiaries include Libya, which received £ 9.3million in assault rifles, military vehicle components and ammunition. Last week he was at the center of international peace talks to stabilize a country where armed groups and foreign powers vie for influence.

Further analysis by the London-based company Campaign against the arms trade (CAAT) found that £ 11.8bn of weapons had been authorized by the UK government during the same period on the Foreign Office’s own list of ‘priority countries for human rights “. Two-thirds of the countries – 21 out of 30 – on the British government list repressive regimes had received British military equipment.

The Ministry of International Trade has also identified nine countries as “main markets” for arms exports which, according to groups, are responsible for numerous human rights violations, including Egypt, Bahrain, Qatar, Saudi Arabia. , Thailand and Turkey.

The British government has previously admitted that a Saudi-led coalition attacked Yemen using weapons made by British companies, with the UK supplying more than half of the fighter jets used by the kingdom. of the Middle East for its bombing raids.

“Right now, UK-made weapons are playing a devastating role in Yemen and around the world. The arms sales that are encouraged today could be used in atrocities and abuse for years to come, ”said Andrew Smith of CAAT.

More arms deals are expected in the near future, and many countries on Freedom House’s list are expected to send representatives to the September international arms fair in east London.

“Wherever there is oppression and conflict, there will always be arms companies trying to take advantage of it and complicit governments will help them do so,” Smith said.

“Many of these sales go to despots, dictatorships and regimes that violate human rights. They didn’t come by accident. None of these arms sales would have been possible without the direct support of Boris Johnson and his colleagues, ”Smith added.

Russia has also been among the recipients of arms sales to the UK – over the past decade it has received £ 44million in UK arms, including ammunition, sniper rifle components and guns. silencer weapons, according to an analysis. Moscow claimed last week that it had driven a British destroyer out of Crimean waters with warning shots and bombs.

The sales to Russia and Libya, however, were made before the introduction of the ongoing arms embargoes in both countries, a situation that critics say highlights the short-term thinking behind most of the sales. weapons.

The Department of International Trade has been contacted for comment.

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