UK ‘must tighten arms controls’

British politicians say UK arms likely used against civilians in Gaza and Sri Lanka.

The report said UK arms were almost certainly used by Israeli forces during the recent conflict in Gaza [AFP]
The report said UK arms were almost certainly used by Israeli forces during the recent conflict in Gaza [AFP]

Sri Lanka review

The group agreed that applications for licences for exports to Israel and Sri Lanka should continue to be assessed on a case-by-case basis.

It welcomed the government’s review of existing export licences to Israel and also called for a review of all existing licences relating to Sri Lanka, recommending that the government assess what weapons used by the Sir Lanka armed forces against the Tamil Tigers were supplied by the UK.

The MPs said they had noted that in the period April 1, 2008 to March 31, 2009, 34 licences had been issued for export to Sri Lanka, and said they would “be keeping a keen eye on all future exports”.

Roger Berry MP, chairman of the committees, said: “Sri Lanka highlights the need for the UK government to monitor closely the situation in countries recently engaged in armed conflict.

“It must assess more carefully the risk that UK arms exports might be used by those countries in the future in a way that breaches our licensing criteria.”

Referring to the Israeli offensive in Gaza earlier this year, the report said we “conclude that it is regrettable that components supplied by the UK were almost certainly used in a variety of ways by Israeli forces during the recent conflict in Gaza”.

It said that “the government should continue to do everything possible to ensure that this does not happen in future”.

The politicians also raised concerns that British arms dealers had bought old Soviet weapons and sold them on to blacklisted countries.

Registration system

The report repeated strong recommendations from last year’s findings that the government establish a register of UK arms brokers and that Britain extend certain trade controls on activities by UK persons anywhere in the world. 

The group called for all residents in the UK and British citizens overseas to obtain trade control licences, or be covered by a general licence, before engaging in any trade in the goods featured on what is called “the Military List” of weapons and military hardware classifications. 

Berry said: “The UK has a responsibility to ensure that its arms export industry, and individual UK citizens, working overseas are not engaging in the illegal arms trade and, therefore, we remain convinced that there is a need for a registration system for arms brokers.

“In addition, the government must now work with NGOs and industry to bring forward draft proposals on extending the extra-territorial provisions of export control legislation.”

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