British MP Concerned over UK Arms Exports’ Licenses to Countries with Questionable Human Rights Records

LONDON, July 17, 2013 (WAFA) – Richard Burden MP, chair of the Britain-Palestine All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG), Wednesday expressed concern about the scale of arms and military equipment which the UK government is approving for export to countries with very questionable human rights records, and highlighted that the situation in Israel is of severe concern.

A press release published commenting on the report published by the Committee of Arms Export Control, said that according to the Government’s own figures there are over three thousand approved export licenses, that are worth more than £12 billion, for ‘strategic controlled goods’ going to 27 Countries listed as of human rights concern by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.

Burden said, “Many of the countries on the list are in the Middle East and North Africa. But what is most striking is that over half of the total (£7,878,776,714) is going to “Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories.”

“Look a little closer and you see that almost all of those exports are going to Israel, with only £5539 going to the Occupied Territories,” he said.

He added, “Look closer still and you see something utterly astonishing. 380 different licenses have been granted for exports of arms and military equipment to Israel. However, £7,765,450,000 of the £7.8 billion worth of equipment exported to Israel is covered by just one license approval – for equipment employing cryptography and software for equipment employing cryptography.”

“This is bizarre, particularly as there are scores of other licenses granted for export of  cryptography equipment and software which have a substantial value – but still only add up to a tiny fraction of this amount,” he said.

He said, “I am tabling questions to Minister today to find out just what this license was all about. Is just one company involved? Why does the scale of this license dwarf all others with similar titles? What does the contact actually involve?”

Quite apart from all the questions that this particular license approval raises, there has to be real concern that the arms trade with Israel dominates the list produced by UK Government to this extent.  Britain has long standing rules that arms and military equipment should not be exported to countries where they are likely to be used for either internal repression or external aggression, a principle that the Foreign Secretary affirmed to the Committee, said the release.That being the case, you cannot ignore that the West Bank remains illegally occupied by Israel and that there is growing international concern about Israel’s treatment of Palestinian child prisoners. You cannot ignore the Israel’s military blockade of Gaza or the regular shootings of Palestinian civilians by Israeli forces which have been systematically documented by the United Nations.Against a background of international concern about Israel, we need to know why inventory of equipment the UK is supplying ranges from components for assault rifles and arms to military communications equipment and intelligence software. The UK Government regularly expresses concern about Israel’s breaches of international law and human rights abuses. So just what are we doing supplying Israel with the military equipment that helps it carrying on such violations?

“The UK Government has some serious questions to answer here – on its arms exports to Israel and to the other countries of concern,” said Burden.