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Monday, June 22, 2020

Is the UK aiding and assisting human rghts abuse?

Politicians are very quick to condemn human rights abuses across the world but as always, it must be judge them by what they do, not by what they say.

The Independent reports that Britain is supplying tens of millions of pounds worth in tear gas, rubber bullets and riot gear to countries found to be breaching human rights.

They say that government records show ministers have issued export licences for such arms since 2010 to countries including Oman, the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Egypt, Brunei and Bahrain, all of which have had concerns raised about human rights. They have also been sold to Hong Kong, where pro-democracy campaigners have faced attacks by armed police:

The revelation about the sales comes after widespread calls by MPs and campaigners to suspend such sales to the United States, in the midst of the crackdown on Black Lives Matter protesters.

At least £34m in licences have been issued in the last decade, with tear gas and other “crowd control” equipment going to 52 countries. Watch more

But the true value of all the exports will never be known because the government has issued opaque “open licences” to manufacturers that allow them to export as much as they want without submitting records.

Under the rules of the UK’s arms export control regime, arms should not be sold if there is a risk they could be used for “internal repression” by the forces buying them.

But ministers have been accused of making a mockery of the regulations despite huge pressure to end sales to repressive regimes.

In 2014 Hong Kong Police issued UK-produced tear gas against pro-democracy demonstrators, and the British government pledged to keep a closer eye on future sales.

But 12 months after the event the UK government was again allowing the export of the same equipment. Last summer it was used against demonstrators again, leading to a further halt in sales.

Other known uses of UK-made riot equipment include deliveries to the Egyptian regime in 2011, which used tear gas against protesters. 800 people were killed in the bloody crackdown by Egyptian security forces.

Over 755,000 people have signed a petition calling on the UK government to suspend export licences for such products to the US, where tear gas and rubber bullets are being used against peaceful Black Lives Matters demonstrators, as well as a number of journalists covering the events.

Surely it is time for a more ethical foreign policy, which does not enable such abuses.
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