The UK Government has been accused of hypocrisy after it was revealed that its arms export agency met with nations listed as ‘major countries of concern’ for their poor human rights record.
A freedom of information request by the Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT) has revealed meetings between officials from the UK Government arms export agency, the UK Trade & Investment Defence & Security Organisation (UKTI DSO) and several countries identified as ‘major countries of concern’ in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office’s Annual Report on Human Rights 2008.
The countries identified are: China, Colombia, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Iraq, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and Vietnam.
In addition, DSO officials also met with counterparts in Georgia and Sri Lanka, which although not listed, were both involved in major conflicts in 2008-09.
CAAT spokesperson Kaye Stearman said the government should not be discussing weapons sales with nations it saw as perpetrators of human rights violations.
“There is no point making speeches about human rights violations when your officials are discussing weapons sales with the perpetrators of those violations,” Stearman said.
Of the countries mentioned, China in particular is still under a EU embargo aimed at preventing the sale of weapons to the country.
The embargo, placed after the Tiananmen Square massacre on 4 June 1989, has been left open to interpretation with some European countries, including the UK, believing it refers only to lethal weapons.
The UK currently licences military-grade technology such as radar, surveillance equipment, laser sighting, and electronics and communications equipment for export to China.
No mention of whether arms export licences were discussed was made available to CAAT.
CAAT has not yet received any response from the MoD or any government agency.