LONDON (The Guardian) – Two-thirds of countries classified as “not free” because of their dire record on human rights and civil liberties have received weapons licensed by the UK government over the past decade, new analysis reveals.
Between 2011 and 2020, the UK licensed £16.8bn of arms to countries criticized by Freedom House, a human rights group.
Of the 53 countries castigated for a poor record on political and human rights on the group’s list, the UK sold arms and military equipment to 39.
Noteworthy recipients include Libya, which received £9.3m of assault rifles, military vehicle components and ammunition. Last week it was the focus of international peace talks to stabilize a country where armed groups and foreign powers compete for influence.
Further analysis by the London-based Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT) found that £11.8bn of arms had been authorized by the UK government during the same period to the Foreign Office’s own list of “human rights priority countries”. Two-thirds of the countries – 21 out of 30 – on the UK government list of repressive regimes had received UK military equipment.
The Department for International Trade has also identified nine nations as “core markets” for arms exports that groups say are guilty of many human rights abuses, including Egypt, Bahrain, and Saudi Arabia.
The UK government has already admitted that a Saudi-led coalition has attacked Yemen using weapons made by British companies with the UK supplying more than half of combat aircraft used by the Middle East kingdom 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 being pushed today could be used in atrocities and abuses for years to come,” said Andrew Smith of the CAAT.
Further arms deals are expected in the near future with many of the countries on the Freedom House list expected to send representatives to September’s international arms fair in east London.