Memorandum from Saferworld
1. Saferworld welcomes the Government's
Human Rights Annual Report 2001. The report increases transparency
in Government policy and it details a number of important steps
and initiatives taken in the last year. This submission focuses
specifically on human rights policy with regard to arms exports
and military equipment transfers, notably with the publication
of the draft Export Control Bill and the Government's report on
Strategic Export Controls 2000.
2. This submission makes recommendations
to the Government to strengthen the Export Control Bill in order
to ensure that comprehensive controls are in place to prevent
arms being transferred that could be used to abuse human rights.
Saferworld also proposes that the Foreign Affairs Committee examine
whether some of the arms exports detailed in the Strategic Export
Controls report are in line with the Consolidated National and
EU Export Criteria. Finally, this submission urges that, in the
aftermath of the tragic events of 11 September, it is imperative
that human rights are not sidelined in the fight against terrorism
and remain an integral part of arms export control policy.
3. In March 2001, the UK Government published
a draft Export Control and Non-Proliferation Bill. Following a
consultation period, the Government presented a new Export Control
Bill to Parliament in June 2001. The Bill is a welcome step in
strengthening and developing UK strategic export controls and
addresses the call by the Scott Report (1996) for new legislation
to govern UK arms exports.
4. The Bill is a significant step forward
in trying to prevent the transfer of arms by UK companies and
citizens into conflict or human rights crisis zones. However,
a number of areas have been identified that, if not addressed,
could undermine the effectiveness of the legislation.
5. One of the Scott Report's main criticisms
was that the purposes of export controls were not set out in legislation.
The Bill includes a "Schedule of Purposes" for export
control. This is an important inclusion, however Saferworld is
concerned that reference contained in the draft Bill to the need
to consider the consequences of arms exports upon sustainable
development has been dropped from the final legislation. All other
export criteria, such as the need not to export weapons that could
be used for internal repression or human rights abuses, have been
included on the face of the bill. The Government has justified
the omission on the grounds that a new section, which gives the
Secretary of State powers to issue guidance for consideration
during the licensing process, covers development issues. However,
while Parliament would have to be fully consulted when changes
to the Schedule of Purposes were made, no such requirement exists
for changes made to the guidance. It is conceivable that in the
lifetime of this legislation, reference to the need to consider
the impact of arms exports on sustainable development could be
removed by Government at any time without due consideration by
The Schedule of Purposes should contain
explicit reference to the need to ensure that arms transfers do
not have an adverse affect on the economy or sustainable development
of a country.
6. Government policy is based on assessing
licence applications on a case-by-case basis. Although this is
appropriate in most circumstances, there are concerns that this
approach may be too narrow when considering the implications of
arms transfers on sustainable development. While one contract
may not be significant on its own, if part of a pattern of large-scale
procurement it may contribute to a cumulative undermining of the
development potential of the recipient state. This should be taken
into account in the licensing process.
The Government should amend its current
policy and allow for cumulative assessment of the impact of arms
export licences on the potential for sustainable development.
7. In the past, UK brokers have been free
to arrange the delivery of weapons from countries outside the
EU to conflict zones with impunity. Often brokers have taken advantage
of the large numbers of cheap, surplus weapons available in Central
and Eastern Europe and brokered them to other destinations. There
is evidence to show that some British dealers and freight companies
have participated in the transfer of significant quantities of
arms from third countries into war zones, including Rwanda, Ethiopia
and Sierra Leone.
8. Under the terms of the Bill, for the
first time, all persons in the UK who broker the transfer of arms
from one overseas destination to another will require a licence
for their activities. However, the Government has indicated in
the draft Secondary Legislation (published as dummy orders in
October 2001) that it will not introduce controls on the activities
of UK citizens operating overseas. This is contrary to the Government's
Manifesto Commitment that stated that it would introduce a licensing
system "to control the activities of arms brokers and traffickers
wherever they located". If the new legislation covers arms
brokers only where part of their activities take place within
the UK, UK passport-holders could simply travel abroad to conduct
their business. This is a serious loophole that would allow UK
citizens to continue to supply arms to regimes that may use them
to abuse human rights.
The Government must honour its manifesto
commitment and ensure the regulation of arms brokers will cover
all UK persons irrespective of the location of their operations.
9. Significant progress has been made in
opening up the UK export licensing system to parliamentary and
public oversight. However, the draft Bill does not legislate for
prior parliamentary scrutiny of arms export licence applications.
The joint Quadripartite Select Committee (QSC), comprising the
Defence, Foreign Affairs, International Development and Trade
and Industry Committees, has argued that a system of prior parliamentary
scrutiny (involving themselves) should be introduced in the UK.
The Government rejected the proposal for prior scrutiny on the
grounds that it might confuse the relationship between the Government
and Parliament, would impinge upon commercial confidentiality
and would hinder British companies' competitiveness by slowing
down the licensing procedure. The QSC addressed these concerns
in a subsequent report, however the Government has regrettably
maintained its position that such a system would be unworkable.
This has potential implications for human rights as it means that
MPs will not be able to raise concerns about the possible use
of equipment for internal repression until after the export licence
has been granted.
The Government should reconsider
its position and establish a system of prior parliamentary scrutiny
of arms export licences to ensure consistent application of the
UK criteria for arms exports, the EU Code and the purposes of
the Export Control Bill. Prior scrutiny measures exist in other
countries, like the USA and Sweden, without risk to commercial
10. There is an increasing trend for UK
companies to manufacture arms overseas. Controlling this type
of production involves additional challenges to those posed by
direct exports. The Government has acknowledged the need to address
the problem of arms manufactured overseas under licence from UK
companies, and has stated its intention to advocate changes to
the EU Code of Conduct to address the issue. However, the concern
here is that effective control of the ultimate use of equipment
manufactured or technology transferred through licensed production
overseas requires explicit Government authorisation of the production
agreement itself, an approach which the Government has rejected.
This increases the risk that arms manufactured under licence overseas
from a UK company could be transferred to a regime that uses them
to violate human rights.
The Government must take responsibility
for preventing licensed production overseas from contributing
to destabilising accumulations of arms and breaches of international
law in the same way it does for direct exports.
11. The last few years have witnessed numerous
instances where arms of UK origin have been diverted for purposes
or to destinations contrary to the Government's intentions. The
Government has stated that it is now taking greater consideration
of the possibility of arms being diverted to undesirable users
or usage when assessing licence applications, and has already
put in place additional procedures to avert this. However, the
Bill does not address any specific measures for monitoring controlled
goods after export. This means that no mechanism is in place to
verify whether British-made weapons are being used for internal
repression in recipient countries.
The Government should strengthen
and develop systems for end-use certification and monitoring that
grant explicit authority to revoke licences where end-use understandings
12. The Government's report on Strategic
Export Controls 2000 is a welcome step towards greater transparency.
However, it highlights a number of potential exports of concern.
Saferworld urges a more rigorous implementation of export policy
and asks the Foreign Affairs Committee to examine whether the
following exports are in line with the Consolidated National and
EU Export Criteria.
13. Saferworld is concerned over exports
of military equipment to Angola, potentially repressive equipment
to Colombia, and small arms to Sri Lankaall of which are
engaged in protracted internal conflicts. Large amounts of small
arms have also been licensed to Nepal and the Philippines who
are facing insurgencies. It is questionable whether these exports
are in keeping with the criteria that arms exports will not be
licensed "which would provoke or prolong armed conflicts
or existing tensions or conflicts".
Angolacomponents for military bridge,
military trailers, military utility vehicles.
Colombiastun grenades, smoke hand grenades,
military communications equipment.
Nepal335 small arms (including 320 semi-automatic
pistols) and body armour.
Philippines400 semi-automatic pistols.
Sri Lanka75 sub-machine guns and four
semi-automatic pistols, armoured all-wheel drive vehicles, components
for heavy machine gun and for armoured fighting vehicle.
14. Saferworld is concerned about the following
arms exports to countries with poor human rights records. It is
questionable whether these are in keeping with the criterion that
exports will not be licensed "if there is a clear risk that
the proposed equipment might be used for internal repression".
Bahrain171 small arms (including 150 sub-machine
guns, assault rifles, shotguns, semi-automatic pistols).
Indonesiacomponents for combat aircraft
and combat helicopters.
Kenyasmall arms ammunition, stun grenades,
Mexicoanti-riot shields, small arms ammunition.
Turkeybody armour, small arms ammunition
and small calibre artillery ammunition.
Saudi Arabiabody armour, crowd control
ammunition, small arms ammunition.
Zambia400 sub-machine guns, 400 semi-automatic
pistols, grenade launchers.
15. Saferworld is concerned about the following
exports to countries in regions of conflict or instability. Parliament
should examine the implementation of the criterion that export
licences will not be issued "if there is a clear risk that
the intended recipient would use the proposed export aggressively
against another country or to assert by force a territorial claim".
The UK is exporting with a potentially offensive use to India
and Pakistan (in dispute over Kashmir), Israel and Lebanon (in
high tension in the Middle East), and Morocco (in dispute over
Indiacomponents and technology for combat
aircraft and combat helicopters, components and technology for
Israeldemolition charges, general purpose
machine guns, rifles, small arms ammunition and components for
small calibre artillery ammunition, components for air-to-surface
missile, armoured fighting vehicle, armoured personnel carrier,
combat aircraft, combat helicopter and tank.
Lebanon233 shotguns, 30 general purpose
Morocco175 small arms (including assault
rifles, rifles, revolvers, sub-machine guns and shotguns) all
on temporary export licences.
Pakistancomponents for combat helicopter,
171 shotguns, military communications equipment.
16. Now more than ever, it is vital that
the UK apply a restrictive interpretation of the EU Code criteria,
especially for arms transfers to those states most closely affected
by the situation in Afghanistan. Commentators have raised potential
concerns over internal uprisings in certain countries (eg Pakistan),
renewed regional conflict (eg between India and Pakistan in Kashmir),
increased regional instability (in the Middle East) and prospects
that other states in the region may use the current climate as
a pretext for clamping down on other forms of internal dissent.
Now is a time for increased restraint in arms exports and it is
important that the increasing moves towards relaxing export controls
in the US do not have a knock-on effect on UK and EU policy.
17. There have been signs in the last two
months that the current crisis is impacting on British foreign
policy. British opposition to Russian involvement in Chechnya
has softened with Prime Minister Blair quoted as saying: "It
is very obvious to us that those militants who are trying to oppose
[Russian forces] in Chechnya are connected with international
The Guardian has reported that "Mr Blair has even
promised to renew defence links with Pakistan."
At an International Question Time fringe meeting at the Labour
Party Conference in Brighton, Ben Bradshaw, the Minister responsible
for arms exports in the Foreign Office, questioned whether it
was right to refuse to export weapons to Algeria, Indonesia and
Sri Lanka as they were democratically-elected governments facing
internal terrorist threats. It is important that the new climate
does not lead to countries' attitudes to terrorism overriding
other concerns about the impact exports may have on exacerbating
internal conflict or fuelling internal repression.
18. As one of the main arms-supplying states
of the EU, the UK should also take a lead in encouraging other
EU states to implement responsible arms export policies at this
time. Furthermore, as a key ally of the US and as its main supporter
in this conflict, the UK should seek to act as a restraining influence
upon the US. There is also a need to co-ordinate restraint with
other partners in the new "coalition against terrorism".
The Pakistan News Service reported on 9 October that Russia is
planning a shipment of $45 million of arms to the Northern Alliance,
including tanks, combat vehicles, small arms and ammunition. Given
the past experiences listed above of arming unstable actors in
pursuit of short-term foreign policy goals, the UK should work
with all its partners in ensuring that these earlier mistakes
are not repeated.
Saferworld recommends that the UK
Government institute a policy of presumption of denial for arms
exports to all countries in Central Asia, South Asia and the Middle
East. This would mean that export licence applications would be
refused unless there was demonstrable proof that the arms were
necessary for self-defence.
5 "EU caves in to Putin over Chechnya,"
David Cronin, European Voice, 4-10 October 2001. Back
"Musharraf dismisses two Islamist Generals," Luke Harding,
The Guardian, 9 October 2001, p 4. Back