Wednesday, July 17, 2013

UK parliament arms

Frances Harrison @francesharris0n

17th July 2013 from TwitLonger

#SRILANKA section in vol 2 of UK parliament arms export licenses:

"?493. Sri Lank is listed as a "Country of Concern" in the FCO's latest Human Rights Report, Human Rights and Democracy: The 2012 Foreign and Commonwealth Office Report, published April 2013.[615]

494. In the Westminster Hall debate on 13 December 2012 on the Committees' 2012 Report (HC 419) Mike Gapes said:

A few years ago, during the civil war in Sri Lanka, an arms embargo was put in place and yet when there was a ceasefire, that embargo was not maintained—this was under the previous Government—and the Sri Lankan Government bought all kinds of things, including ammunition, small arms, components and a huge amount of hardware that was used by their armed forces. That ceasefire broke down after 2002, and in 2009 we saw scenes of absolute carnage and brutality when the Sri Lankan armed forces decided to eliminate the Tamil Tigers. I am not here to speak for or defend the Tamil Tigers, but it is clear that there is strong case for the Sri Lankan Government to participate in a proper independent international inquiry into the war crimes that were carried out. Many of those crimes were carried out using weaponry that had been imported from around the world. Officials in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office were unable to tell us whether UK-supplied ammunition, components or weapons were used by Sri Lankan Government forces, but I suspect that they were.[616]

In replying to the debate the BIS Minister, Michael Fallon, commented regarding Mike Gapes' statement that: "I regard him as one of the most well informed, perhaps the best informed, Member of the House on Sri Lanka, and we should take careful note of what he said on that subject today."[617]

495. On 18 February 2013 The Independent newspaper published an article stating that the UK Government had sold arms to the Sri Lankan regime. This was "despite the countries dire human rights record. Figures taken from the ECO database showed that the UK Government had sold over £3 million worth of small arms and weaponry [in the period July to September 2012]. These included pistols, rifles, assault rifles, body armour and combat shotguns. The article stated that: "The sales indicate how far President Mahinda Rajapaksa's government has been welcomed back into the international fold by Britain, despite the behaviour of his armed forces during the brutal last few months of the 2009 civil war." The article continued by claiming that both sides in the civil war had been accused of human rights abuses and that the Sri Lankan government had resisted international calls for an independent investigation into well-documented allegations that Sri Lankan Army soldiers were involved in rape, torture, extra-judicial killings and the deliberate targeting of civilians.[618]

496. The FCO Minister, Alistair Burt, issued a press notice on 20 February 2013 rebutting the Independent article. He said that he was "disappointed to read the article [...] which misrepresented the UK's export control policy towards Sri Lanka." He stated that: "The article suggested the UK had changed its policy towards Sri Lanka and was focused on selling more arms to the Sri Lankan military." The Minister went on to say: "During the period your article covered, [1 July -30 September 2012] only 2 licences were approved to the Sri Lankan military. One licence related to shotgun cartridges for sporting use and the other for communications equipment for a transport aircraft." He continued by stating that the small arms mentioned in the article were for export to private maritime security companies engaged in legitimate work countering the threat of piracy in the region. He said that the export licence applications had been "considered thoroughly" against the UK's export licensing criteria".[619]

497. The ECO quarterly reports on arms export licences for the period 1 January 2012 until 30 September 2012 indicate the following licences approved and refused to Sri Lanka for goods which might be used for internal repression:
2012 Quarter 1 (1 January-31 March 2012)

Licences approved:

SIELs (total value £1,732,115)

Acoustic device for riot control

Body armour

Combat shotguns (160)

Rifles (130)

Small arms ammunition

Weapon sights
2012 Quarter 2 (1 April-30 June 2012)

Licences approved:

SIELs (total value £192,159)

Body armour

Military helmets


Body armour

Military helmets

Licences refused


Assault rifles, body armour, components for assault rifles, components for body armour, components for machine guns, components for pistols, components for rifles, machine guns, military helmets, pistols, rifles, small arms ammunition, weapon sights.
2012 Quarter 3 (1 July-30 September 2012)

Licences approved:

SIELs (total value £3,741,334)

Assault rifles (600)

Body armour

Combat shotguns (50)

Components for assault rifles

Components for body armour

Components for military communications equipment

Components for pistols

Components for rifles

Military helmets

Pistols (100)

Rifles (550)

Small arms ammunition

Weapon sights

Cryptographic software, equipment employing cryptographic software, software for equipment employing cryptographic software, technology for equipment employing cryptographic software.

Body armour, direct view imaging equipment, military helmets.

Assault rifles, body armour, components for body armour, military helmets, small arms ammunition, weapon sights.

Military helmetsP619FP619FP619FP619FP619F[620]
498. On 23 April I wrote to the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills, Vince Cable requesting that he state which UK Strategic Export Control licences are currently extant for Sri Lanka, stating the application type, annual report summary and goods value in the case of each licence.P620FP620FP620FP620FP620F[621] The BIS Secretary of State, Vince Cable, replied on 10 May 2013 providing a list of extant export licences for the FCO's "Countries of concern".P621FP621FP621FP621FP621F[622] Details of the 49 extant licences listed for Sri Lanka can found in Annex 13 of this Memorandum.

499. I propose that the Committees recommend that the Government states in its Response how the statement made by the FCO Minister Alistair Burt on 20 February 2013 that during the period 1 July-30 September 2012 only 2 arms export licences were approved to the Sri Lankan military can be reconciled with the information put on the BIS website for licences approved to Sri Lanka in this period as reproduced in paragraph 496 of this Memorandum.

500. I propose that the Committees further recommend that the Government in its Response to the Committees' Report states whether it is satisfied that none of the 49 extant UK export licences to Sri Lanka:

a) contravenes the Government's stated policy that: "We will not issue licences where we judge there is a clear risk that the proposed export might provoke or prolong regional or internal conflicts, or which might be used to facilitate internal repression"; or

b) is currently in contravention of any of the arms exports Criteria set out in the UK's Consolidated Criteria and the EU Common Position

including those extant licences to Sri Lanka for: acoustic devices for riot control, body armour, military helmets, all-wheel drive vehicles with ballistic protection, military support vehicles, assault rifles, components for assault rifles, components for body armour, components for rifles, rifles, small arms ammunition, weapon sights, combat shotguns and equipment employing cryptography.

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