In recent weeks we have seen state owned weapons in Libya turned against civilians, legitimate protesters who have taken to the street to demand their basic human rights.
Where have these weapons come from? In the third quarter of 2010 (the most recent period for which figures are available), equipment approved for export to Libya included, crowd control ammunition, small arms ammunition and tear gas/irritant ammunition. Ammunition comprised £3.2m of the £4.7m million of military items licensed. The UK was happy to arm Gaddafi, and continues to be happy to arm the dictators of the Arab World, last week David Cameron travelled to the Middle East, flanked by arms companies, in a disgraceful sales trip.
The UK and the International Community has a responsibility to protect civilians. So was itreasonably foreseeable that the arms provided to the Libyan dictator by the UK, would be used against civilians leading to direct violations of human rights and international humanitarian law? Or was it safe to assume that, given the nature of the regime, the stockpiles were for legitimate use?
It is too late to protect after the event and these arms should not have been sold.
The UK Section of the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom has today expressed outrage at the government’s continued readinesss to export arms to authoritarian regimes.
The United Nations Security Council has called for an immediate end to violence in Libya, and concerns about the use of British made weapons against civilians grow, yet David Cameron still cannot see any problem with arms sales to authoritarian regimes. Yesterday he referred to arms deals as a “fact of life”.
As David Cameron spoke in Kuwait yesterday to condemn violence against civilians in Libya he was flanked by officials from arms companies and the UK Trade & Investment Defence and Security Organisation (UKTI DSO) who are exhibiting at the International Defence Exhibition and Conference (IDEX), the largest defence and security event in the Middle East and North African region.
Weapons including tear gas and crowd control ammunition have been exported by the UK to countries including Bahrain and Libya. The timing of this sales trip is deplorable and exploitative and shows the government’s disregard for human security and freedom of expression.
UK WILPF calls for the immediate embargo of all arms sales to the region and an urgent enquiry into unethical and irresponsible selling practices by the UK government.
President, UK WILPF