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Did Bristol arm Middle Eastern and North African despots’ thugs?

4 February, 2011

There is a very real possibility that Bristol arms manufactures are selling their arms to regimes that then use them for internal oppression. Just some of the possible companies involved in this illegal ( not to mention misery inducing ) activity can be seen here: bristol arms companies Hundreds of people have been killed in the crackdown on the wave of popular uprisings which began in Tunisia last month and rapidly spread to Algeria, Egypt, Yemen and Jordan. EU member states and the US have publicly called for a peaceful transition to democracy but both have a long history of arming and backing totalitarian regimes in the region.

According to the government’s most recent records Britain continued to export significant quantities of arms to Tunisia, Algeria and Egypt up until 2010. And the most recent EU report on controls on the export of military technology and equipment shows that in 2009 Britain, France, Italy and Germany were among a number of EU countries which dramatically increased their arms exports from the previous year Britain and was among several countries that had failed to provide full details of the actual deliveries of armaments. UK Trade and Investment Defence & Security Organisation (UKTI-DSO) said today that due to commercial sensitivities it would not give details of the exports. However a they’ve been was adamant that nothing exported to Egypt could be used for repressive purposes. They went on to claim that Britain had the most stringent export controls in the world and was among the most transparent in its dealings. This was proved to be false at last year’s Decommissioners trial where even the judge said: ‘Export licenses are not worth the paper they are written on.’

Plus, despite the then Foreign Secretary David Milliband saying in the House of Commons (January 2009) that UK manufactured weapons were not used for either internal oppression or external aggression; he was proven to be completely wrong – or he was lying. As has now been proven in an English Crown Court (Hove 2010). There was little concrete information as to where these weapons end up or how they’re likely to be used. For example all we can see is that the UK sent £4.7 million worth of arms to Egypt, including parts for machine guns, grenade launchers, armoured vehicles and targeting and surveillance equipment. There needs to be more explicit detail in the information provided in UK reporting on this issue. This is critical to ensuring that the UK is not involved in sending weapons to potential human rights violators. At a time when these governments are experiencing popular protest, it is inevitable that some of the EU weapons will be used to crush internal opposition. There should be an immediate arms embargo on the region.

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