Successive governments have misjudged the risk that arms approved for export to North Africa and the Middle East might be used for internal repression say Committees on Arms Export Controls.
The Committee on Arms Export Controls in the first overseas affairs Select Committee Report since the start of the uprisings in January in North Africa and the Middle East comment that "Both the present Government and its predecessor misjudged the risk that arms approved for export to certain authoritarian countries in North Africa and the Middle East might be used for internal repression."
The Chair of the Committees on Arms Export Controls, Sir John Stanley, says "This is a ground-breaking report as far as Parliament and the public are concerned. For the first time, the committees have produced, in Annex 4 of our Report, country by country examples of export license approvals since January 2009 of arms that could be used for internal repression by authoritarian regimes in North Africa and the Middle East."
Britain is the second largest arms exporter in the world. Over a million people rely on the industry for their livelihoods. Could this be why the government is so keen to promote the arms trade? But what right do we have to take a moralistic tone when overseas governments use force to suppress opposition if we have supplied the arms in the first place?
The Campaign Against the Arms Trade (CAAT) is urging people to write to their MPs about the consequences of UK arms sales.
Meanwhile, CAAT is working with fellow campaigners to stop the London arms fair, DSEi, in September. "Against the backdrop of Middle East repression", they say, "we believe this year's protests will be the largest for many years. We are planning inclusive, imaginative and non-violent events to engage a wide range of participants."
Get Ready For The Arms Fair, a day of action planning, will be held on Saturday 12 June at Friends House in London, the HQ of Quakers in Britain. Quakers have always maintained a clear position on the absurdity of using violence as a means to achieve a peaceful solution to a conflict. They are known as peacemakers and are active in conflict resolution throughout the world. Although not all Quakers would call themselves pacifists, the Peace Testimony is an important part of the Quaker heritage.