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Strategic Export Controls

Evidence submitted by the UK Working Group on Arms (UKWG) [1]

Contents

Paragraph

Summary of recommendations

Arms Trade Treaty

1

Updating licensing criteria

12

Information-sharing on licences approved, especially regarding diversion risks

16

Arms brokering and support services

19

Responding to changing patterns of defence production and trade

21

Re-export controls

27

Cluster munitions

32

Torture end-use control

38

Transparency

41

Promoting arms exports in support of strategic and economic priorities

43

Yemen

50

Summary of recommendations

With regard to the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) the UKWG would urge the UK Government to:

§ Press for a comprehensive scope for the ATT including all forms of international transfer of all conventional weapons, parts, components, ammunition, ordnance, explosives and associated support services.

§ Ensure that the ATT parameters reflect states existing international legal obligations and that they are commensurate with the UK's commitments under the EU Common Position on Arms Exports.

§ Engage with sceptical states in order to minimise opposition and facilitate consensus at the highest level possible.

§ Continue to demonstrate strong and effective leadership throughout the period leading up to agreement on the ATT.

§ Vocally support and facilitate the inclusion of civil society at all stages of the ATT negotiation process.

In addition, the UK Government should:

§ Revise current UK arms transfer legislation to reflect the wording of the criteria of the EU Common Position. We would also urge the UK Government to participate actively in the Dutch-led initiative to review the operation of Criterion 8 and to promote similar processes for the other criteria.

§ Propose to its EU partners to extend the EU denials-notification database to include information of note regarding licences authorised as well as refused.

§ Extend extraterritorial brokering controls more broadly across the UK military list, and establish a formal register of arms brokers.

§ Tighten the rules governing and oversight over registration and incorporation procedures for companies involved in the defence or security sector.

§ Adopt the now-widespread best practice of applying "no re-export without permission" controls as a matter of routine.

§ Pursue adoption of a military end-use control in discussions with other EU Member States.

§ Better regulate the activities of overseas companies subsidiary to or under the effective control of UK companies, particularly in respect of embargoed destinations.

§ Introduce specific licenses for licensed production arrangement overseas where this is for the manufacture of controlled items, stipulating the maximum quantities to be produced, the duration of production, and permitted export markets for the finished items.

§ Improve enforcement activities at UK defence exhibitions to stop the marketing and promotion of prohibited weapons.

§ Commit to ending indirect financial support for the producers of cluster munitions and establish a joint financial services, NGO and Government working group to address this issue at the earliest opportunity.

§ Establish a torture end-use ‘catch all clause’, through an amendment to EC Regulation 1236/2005. If introduction of such a catch-all is likely to take more than six months, or is rejected by EU partners, it should be introduced unilaterally in the UK.

§ Investigate without delay whether military aircraft, weapons, in-country military support to the Saudi Arabian armed forces or UK personnel have been involved, knowingly or otherwise, in serious violations of international human rights or humanitarian law; and report these findings to Parliament. Pending the results of this investigation, suspend any current or future supplies of military equipment likely to be used to commit or facilitate serious violations of international human rights or humanitarian law.

Arms Trade Treaty

Progress to date

1. Inadequate and ineffective controls over the international trade in conventional arms have contributed to tremendous human suffering across the world. Irresponsible transfers have fuelled armed conflict, facilitated serious human rights violations, and undermined efforts to eradicate poverty. Latest estimates (from the Global Burden of Armed Violence report of 2008) suggest that 2,000 people each day die from armed violence; many thousands more are injured or forced to flee their homes; schools, hospitals and markets are destroyed.

2. In December 2009, after three years of consultation, and meetings of a Group of Governmental Experts and of an Open-Ended Working Group, the UN General Assembly passed Resolution 64/48 mandating the move to formal negotiation of an Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) by 2012, to create a legally-binding instrument based on the highest possible common international standards for the transfer of conventional arms. The first two PrepComs took place consecutively on 12-23 July 2010 at the UN in New York. The next PrepCom takes place on 28 February-4 March 2011; the fourth and final substantive PrepCom is on 11-15 July 2011. The Chair, Ambassador Moritàn of Argentina, is aiming to achieve consensus at each stage, moving slowly and trying to ensure that all sceptical states remain part of the process. UKWG members and the international Control Arms NGO Coalition are concerned that progress is too slow, given the complexity of the negotiations, the perceived threat some states feel an ATT represents to national security, and the very tight timescale to reach agreement.

3. The PrepComs produced a Chairman’s Draft Paper, and it is widely anticipated that a draft Treaty text is in preparation, and that it will be introduced at some point during the next PrepCom. While many elements of a robust ATT including strong human rights/international humanitarian law and development parameters for refusing deals; a wide scope and strong implementation proposals were included in the basket of ideas contained in the first PrepCom documents, it is vital that these are now translated into robust text.

Particular issues of concern

4. For the Treaty to be effective in preventing irresponsible arms transfers that fuel conflict, poverty and serious human rights abuses, it needs:

§ Comprehensive scope: cover all types of weapons transfer, and all types of conventional arms, ammunition, parts and components. It is of great concern that the US is currently opposed to the inclusion of ammunition.

§ Robust criteria. The parameters of an ATT must include tough criteria around international human rights and humanitarian law and socio-economic development, which need to be translated into strong text (..a transfer shall not be authorized if.."). Some states are already arguing for language ("take into account") which would render these criteria extremely weak.

§ A transparent and effective Implementation mechanism.

5. Smaller states have capacity concerns as to the infrastructure an ATT will require of them, and it is incumbent on larger exporters therefore to negotiate a system that is effective while being workable at all levels of capacity.

Progress needed during the 2011 PrepComs

6. While the 2010 PrepComs set the stage for debate, there is a need for the pace of work to accelerate, with only two weeks of formal PrepCom time remain before the 2012 Conference begins. In particular it is essential that the two remaining PrepComs develop a robust and comprehensive draft treaty text, building on the base established during the first PrepCom. If this is not achieved then there will be insufficient time in 2012 to complete treaty negotiations in line with the UN General Assembly mandate.

7. As a consequence several years of UK leadership on the ATT, the UK position continues to have a significant impact on other states. During the July PrepComs, rightly or wrongly the UK was perceived to have stopped providing this leadership; it was seen to be relying on others, such as the EU, to take a lead. Several UK statements outside the UN, for example in the Strategic Security and Defence Review, which offers support to the ATT but does not provide evidence of an intention to continue to lead, reinforce this perception. The US, France and Australia are now beginning to dominate a process which has been central to British foreign policy. This will potentially make it harder for British goals to be achieved. It is also affecting other supporter states, which look to the UK for leadership, and consider the UK’s positioning on this issue as a barometer for global consensus. Therefore a UK which is no longer strongly arguing for a robust humanitarian and human rights basis to the Treaty may be inadvertently perceived as having shifted position on these issues.

8. The Government should maintain a leadership role, working with other supporter states to push for an effective Treaty, including developing and defending strong draft ATT text, encouraging active engagement from supportive states, and investing political capital in addressing the more sceptical states. It is critical that sufficient resources are provided to ensure that appropriate staff and adequate time are made available in all relevant ministries-including BIS, DfID, the FCO, HMRC and the MoD-to pursue a strong and robust Treaty.

The role of civil society in the negotiating process

9. The ATT Resolution from 2009 requires the PrepCom to: "… be undertaken in an open and transparent manner." Regrettably, civil society representatives were denied access to much of the first two PrepComs, despite these being general and conceptual rather than detailed negotiating sessions. The UK should use its influence to push for the meetings to remain open, so that international civil society is able to enhance the level of resources and expertise available, especially to less-resourced states

10. In the national context, the UK Government has so far actively drawn upon civil society expertise through, for example, involvement in the ATT cross-Whitehall "virtual team", in technical meetings and through significant input into policy discussions. We urge the coalition Government to maintain this constructive partnership, and we hope that it will work to ensure the maximum participation for global civil throughout the ATT process.

11. The UKWG urges the UK Government to:

§ Press for a comprehensive scope for the ATT including all forms of international transfer of all conventional weapons, parts, components, ammunition, ordnance, explosives and associated support services

§ Ensure that the ATT parameters reflect states existing international legal obligations and that they are commensurate with the UK's commitments under the EU Common Position on Arms Exports.

§ Engage with sceptical states in order to minimise opposition and facilitate consensus at the highest level possible.

§ Continue to demonstrate strong and effective leadership throughout the period leading up to agreement on the ATT.

§ Vocally support and facilitate the inclusion of civil society at all stages of the ATT negotiation process.

Updating licensing criteria

12. Since its adoption in December 2008, the UK is legally obliged to comply with the EU Common Position 2008/944/CFSP defining common rules governing control of exports of military technology and equipment (Common Position). Currently, Article 9 (8) of the UK Export Control Act 2002 establishes that the UK applies its own "consolidated criteria" when assessing arms transfer licence applications. These are in certain aspects weaker than the criteria set out in the Common Position, most notably with regard to the application of international humanitarian law. As a matter of urgency, the Export Control Act should be updated to reflect the new requirements of the Common Position.

13. In addition, the UKWG notes that since the EU Code of Conduct on Arms Export was first agreed in 1998 there has been only one serious effort to elaborate the Code criteria, a process completed approximately five years ago. While originally conceived as an attempt to identify best practice and to refine the criteria so as to improve their implementation, ultimately this process merely constituted an elaboration of existing practice across the EU, with no particular emphasis on establishing best practice. When first agreed, the criteria were the product of compromise by a number of states with limited experience of co-operation on multilateral arms transfer controls, leaving considerable room for interpretation. The transformation of the EU Code into a Common Position in 2008 saw some reorganisation of the criteria and a more principled approach to the treatment of international humanitarian law; however, for the most part, the criteria were unchanged. Given the wealth of experience the member states now have in terms of both applying the criteria and co-operating on arms transfer controls, a fundamental assessment of criteria implementation is long overdue. Indeed, the moves afoot to liberalise transfers among Member States, such as through the European directive on intra-community trade in defence equipment, increase the need for Member States to apply the same standards at the external border of the EU, which again points to Member States revisiting the question of criteria implementation.

14. Problems with implementation have, in effect, already been acknowledged by Member States. The Netherlands has just established a new initiative to reconsider how Criterion 8 (sustainable development) is being applied by different Member States.

15. The UKWG recommends that the Government revise current UK arms transfer legislation to reflect the wording of the criteria of the EU Common Position. We would also urge the UK Government to participate actively in the Dutch-led initiative to review the operation of Criterion 8 and encourage HMG to promote similar processes for the other criteria.

Information-sharing on licences approved, especially regarding diversion risks

16. The recent NGO report entitled Rhetoric or restraint? Trade in military equipment under the EU transfer control system-a report to the EU Presidency, edited by An Vranckx of the University of Gent [1] , identifies how improvements in EU information-sharing could help to prevent diversion of EU-sourced equipment. While Member States share relatively detailed information on all cases where licences are denied, there are no systems in place for sharing information on, for example, problematic intermediaries, transporters or transfer routes, or of instances where diversion has come to light. Rhetoric or restraint includes a detailed study of the origins of small arms seized from, or handed-in by, non-state actors in Colombia (which included 13 EU Member States, though not the UK) and makes it plain that Member States are failing to keep each other informed about possible diversion risks.

17. At the moment knowledge of diversion risks can only be circulated to EU partners where it relates to a licence denials; no information may be circulated where information has come to light following the approval of a transfer.

18. The UKWG recommends that the UK Government propose to its EU partners to extend the EU denials-notification database to include information of note regarding licences authorised as well as refused.

Arms brokering and support services

19. The UK has made strong headway on the control of arms brokers, most recently with the extension of extraterritorial controls to include the transfer of small arms and light weapons (SALW), including important new controls on their transportation. We believe, however, that the range of goods to which extraterritorial controls should apply should be widened and that the ECO should establish a formal register of UK arms brokers. Discussions between Industry, NGO’s and the Government on extending brokering controls to other categories on the Military list should be re-instated at the earliest opportunity, following the governments rejection of join industry/NGO proposals made during 2009.

20. The UKWG remains very concerned about the growing evidence that UK "brass plate" [2] companies are being used to facilitate the unlicensed supply of weapons to countries of concern. The UKWG urges the new Government to take a wider review of the use of company registration in relation to arms brokering activities and to consider tightening the rules governing and oversight over registration and incorporation procedures for companies involved in the defence or security sector.

Responding to changing patterns of defence production and trade

21. The UKWG is concerned that the UK regulatory framework has not been keeping pace with trends towards a greater use of civilian technologies in military production and the ongoing Europeanisation and globalisation of the defence sector. On the grounds that it is an area over which the EU has primary competence, in February 2007, the UK Government announced that it was to promote, at the EU level, the idea of a military end-use or "catch-all" clause. This would mean that the Government would be able to require a licence, should it deem it appropriate, for transfers of equipment that is not on any control list but which is intended for a military end-use.

22. The genesis of this commitment can be traced back to the use of Land Rover vehicles in the Andijan massacre in Uzbekistan in 2005. The Land Rovers had been assembled in and exported from Turkey to Uzbekistan, but to a British design, using British technology, and with approximately 70 per cent of the components coming from Land Rover in the UK . However none of these components were controlled items and thus all were exported legally with no need for an export licence. A military end-use control would have given the Government the power to require Land Rover to apply for an export licence in advance of any such transfer. [3]

23. However, actual activity in this direction has apparently been minimal. In 2009 the Government was arguing that attempting to move this forward at that time made no sense, on the grounds that any business that was incomplete when the 2004-09 European Commission came to the end of its life would need to be started again under the new Commission, and that this particular issue was complex, requiring plenty of time. The 2010-14 Commission has since been established, and now would seem the ideal time to follow up on this commitment.

24. The UKWG urges the UK Government to pursue adoption of a military end-use control in discussions with other EU Member States.

25. Previous UKWG submissions to the CAEC have raised the way that some other aspects of modern defence manufacture and/or arms transfer practice are not currently being dealt with effectively by the UK system. These include:

§ The arms transfer activities of overseas companies under the effective control of UK companies;

§ The licensing of items which, post-export from the UK, are to be incorporated into military equipment for onward transfer; and

§ Overseas facilities that produce controlled goods under a production licence from a UK entity. [4]

26. These issues remain of concern, and the UKWG recommends that the Government:

§ Investigates how to better control the arms transfer activities of overseas companies subsidiary to or under the effective control of UK companies, at a minimum to embargoed destinations

§ Applies the same criteria when deciding whether to authorise the export of equipment to be incorporated into military equipment for onward transfer as it does for other exports; and

§ Requires UK companies to apply for a specific licence to establish a licensed production arrangement overseas where this is for the manufacture of controlled items. Such a licence should stipulate the maximum quantities to be produced, the duration of production, and permitted export markets for the finished items. This is critical as a means to restrict the proliferation of production capacity, which by its very nature is even more problematic than the proliferation of finished items.

Re-export controls

27. The UK Government has for a number of years resisted calls to introduce "no re-export without permission" conditions into transfer licences. The UK has retained this position despite the widespread use of re-export controls by many states, including for example the other four Permanent Members of the UN Security Council (China, France, Russia and the US) and EU partners.

28. The UKWG welcomes the decision of the UK Government earlier this year to require end-use declarations to prohibit re-export to embargoed destinations without permission. This would seem to acknowledge the principle that controls should be applied to the re-export of strategic goods sourced from the UK. However, the proposed condition is of extremely limited scope and likely impact given that UK concerns about the appropriateness of arms transfers extends, rightly, far beyond embargoed destinations. Arms transfers are currently embargoed to only 17 states under UK law. Of these, nine are covered by UN embargoes [5] . In such cases, transfers are already prohibited regardless of whether the UK introduces this new requirementThis new policy will therefore be of extremely limited effect, and the risk will remain that strategic goods of UK origin are re-exported with negative consequences. In 2009 the UK denied licences for exports to 89 states not under embargo, including for example Algeria , Israel and Ukraine .

29. Many recipients of UK strategic exports themselves apply very different systems and standards of arms transfer controls to that of the UK . For example, the UKWG has previously given evidence to the CAEC of how South Africa has licensed transfers of armoured vehicles to destinations such as Guinea , India (for use in Kashmir), Nepal and Uganda in circumstances where the UK would have been highly likely to refuse the transfers. The benefits of providing a contractual basis for UK involvement in decisions to re-export should therefore be clear. Of course if a recipient state is set on re-exporting irrespective of UK opinion, there is little the UK could do to stop them. However, the Government claims that the pre-licensing assessment process sifts out the problematic buyers, and thus for the most part it seems reasonable to assume that the overwhelming majority of customers will be reliable and concerned with their good name to the point where they would be reluctant to re-export in contravention of any contractual obligations.

30. It is difficult to understand the UK Government’s reluctance to properly address the issue of re-export. Re-export controls will not harm UK industry, and will in fact improve its profile as among the most responsible in the world. In addition, introducing re-export controls would be easy and inexpensive with little added administrative cost barring the simplification of existing end-use documentation. Additional costs would accrue from any additional licensing workload, but indications from other EU Member States that already use these types of re-export control are that the increase in licence applications is not significant.

31. The UKWG urges the Government to revisit this issue and adopt the now widespread best practice of applying "no re-export without permission" controls as a matter of routine.

Cluster munitions

32. The UK is to be credited with its swift ratification of the Oslo Treaty to ban the production, transfer, stockpiling and use of cluster munitions, efforts that have secured unanimous cross-party support in both Houses of Parliament. It is encouraging that the current Government has also prioritised efforts to eradicate cluster munitions and has undertaken outreach to states that have not joined the Convention, with a particular focus on Commonwealth States. It is important to recognise the particular contributions made to outlaw these weapons in October 2008 by placing strict prohibitions on the transfer of cluster munitions or their components, including the provision of any ancillary services such as transport, advertising and marketing activities.

Prohibiting marketing and promotion activities

33. This is especially important in light of two recent findings.

34. We reported to the Committee in December 2009 that, at the Defence Systems and Equipment International Exhibition (DSEi) held in September 2009 in London, the UKWG found that Pakistan Ordnance Factories (POF) was advertising artillery ammunition including its 155mm Base Bleed DP-ICM (Dual Purpose Improved Conventional Munition)-a cluster munition-in its product brochures. At the time of the exhibition, the organisers were contacted about these promotional materials and an investigation launched as to whether the exhibiter was in breach of its obligations. At the time of writing, the outcome of this investigation is unknown.

35. In July 2010 UKWG researchers attended the Farnborough International Air show held at Farnborough Aerodrome and found a Russian company, Bazalt State Research and Production Enterprise (FSUE SRPE Bazalt), advertising a range of cluster munitions including some in model form and potentially a complete sub-munition. A large display poster (see image below) on the Bazalt stand at the air show in July 2010 clearly advertises a wide range of "cluster bombs", including the RBK-500U OAB-2.5RT, which is filled with 126, 2.5kg "fragmentation bomblets".

36. It is of serious concern that such overt marketing of prohibited weapons could have been allowed to take place at a UK defence exhibition and the UKWG suggests that enforcement of existing UK legislation in this area is not adequate.

Finance and investment:

37. The UKWG welcomes the fact that UK law now bans the direct financing of cluster munitions production, but further work on indirect finance needs to take place. It is important that commitments announced on 7 December 2009 to work with the financial sector, NGOs and other interested parties to prevent the indirect financing of cluster munitions are implemented at the earliest opportunity, including through potential new legislation should such efforts not signal an end to indirect financial support to the producers of these weapons. These efforts are made even more imperative given new research findings that show that during 2009, two UK banks-Barclays and RBS-renewed loans and investment banking services worth approximately $476 millionto cluster munitions producing companies L-3 Communications, Lockheed Martin and Textron. [6]

Torture end-use control

38. The UKWG has welcomed the February 2008 policy commitment to introduce a new EU wide end-use control for goods used in torture. In 2008, the UK Government stated that:

We will be asking the Commission to introduce a control where the exporter will be required to submit an export licence application where they have reason to believe, or have been informed, that the items could be used for capital punishment, torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment. [7]

39. We are however disappointed that progress on this end-use control (first announced in February 2008) has been so slow. On 29 June 2010, the Government attended a meeting to discuss the operation of, and amendments to, EC Regulation 1236/2005 (the ‘torture regulation’). It is our understanding that discussions about an EU-level end-use control on equipment suspected to be destined for use in executions, torture or other ill-treatment were initiated at this meeting.

40. This issue is made all the more urgent in light of the widely reported case of the potential export to the USA by a UK company, of sodium thiopental, an anaesthetic drug used as part of the lethal injection protocol. Although, following judicial review, the UK Government has now announced that this drug will require a licence for export, which will involve making an emergency Order under the 2002 Export Control Act, other drugs are now being considered by US states for use in executions. Oklahoma has recently been granted permission to use pentobarbital, thereby overcoming the difficulties in obtaining sodium thiopental. We note that if the Government had delivered on its 2008 commitment in this area, it would have been able to control exports of sodium thiopental and any other similar drug or items, as soon as it became known that they were being used in executions.

· To avoid the necessity for repeated discussions about items that could be used for executions and their addition to the UK export control list, we call on the UK Government to press the European Commission and EU Member States to urgently conclude the introduction of a torture end-use ‘catch all clause’ through an amendment to EC Regulation 1236/2005.

· If introduction of such a catch-all is likely to take more than six months, or is rejected by EU partners, it should be introduced unilaterally at a UK level (thereby setting an example for other EU partners to follow), in concordance with the UK Government’s previous statement that it would consider introducing such a control independently.

· We also urge the UK to continue its efforts to strengthen EC Regulation 1236/2005 to broaden the range of equipment covered, specifically by updating the annexes on prohibited equipment (Annex 2) and controlled equipment (Annex 3), to reflect developments in the security equipment market.

Transparency

41. The quality and quantity of information regarding export and trade control licences that is included in the Quarterly and Annual Reports on Strategic Exports has developed substantially in recent years. The creation of the searchable online database has been a major step forward and serves as an example that other states would do well to follow. We also applaud the process that led to the development of the database: as an idea it was first proposed by the UKWG; subsequently it was developed in consultation with the UKWG and industry. There are, however, further improvements that could be made to the UK’s reporting system. These include:

§ More information on the declared end-use and end-users of licensed items (except where there are specific, compelling reasons for withholding such information);

§ More information regarding actual transfers made, especially under open licences; and

§ The inclusion of historical information in the searchable database.

42. The UKWG welcomes the developments with regard to transparency in UK arms transfers that have taken place in recent years and would encourage the Government to continue striving toward further improvements in the quality, quantity and accessibility of information provided.

Promoting arms exports in support of strategic and economic priorities

43. As far back as September 2009, Dr. Liam Fox, the then Shadow Defence Secretary, stated that one of the four major priorities of defence procurement under a Conservative Government would be to ‘preserve UK defence jobs by maximising exports.’ He stated that the Conservative Party ‘will use defence exports as a foreign policy tool and … will seek to increase Britain's share of the world defence market.’ [8]

44. He also stated in March 2010 that a Conservative Government will ‘make it its policy to maximise the UK’s share of global defence exports’ for three reasons:

· Economies of scale from increased sale volumes maximises returns for the taxpayer;

· Increased sale revenues through exports increases revenue to the national purse through the multiplier effect;

· Exports can be used a foreign policy tools to help underpin strategic relationships with key allies and partners. [9]

45. This rhetoric has now been intensified within the new Government. For example, in a statement that fits with the Prime Minister’s declaration of an era of "commercial foreign policy", the Defence Equipment Minister Peter Luff has stated that the Government is "not embarrassed" to promote defence exports. [10]

46. The long awaited Strategic Defence and Security Review (SDSR) made some welcome commitments to prioritise conflict prevention ‘including… arms export control engagement so as to promote regional stabilisation and reduce the risk of conflict’ [11] and improve coordination among the UK’s diplomatic, development, economic, defence and intelligence efforts. [12] However the SDSR also commits to prioritising our economic interests overseas and embedding ‘a more commercial culture throughout our overseas posts’, including ‘working with the MOD and Home Office, specifically to promote defence and security exports for good commercial reasons and where this will build the capacity of our partners and allies.’ [13]

47. It is not clear how the Government intends to reconcile these potentially competing sets of priorities. The UKWG is concerned that prioritising the establishment of a more commercial culture could come at the cost of conflict prevention, and by a reduced emphasis on responsible arms transfer controls. In addition, a move towards defence and security exports as tools to ‘build the capacity of our partners and allies’ should be applied with extreme care given that it is not necessarily consistent with the UK’s obligations as set out in the EU Common Position. These state explicitly that considerations relating to "defence and security interests [including] those of friendly and allied countries … cannot affect consideration of the criteria on respect for human rights and on regional peace, security and stability". [14]

48. The UKWG is also concerned that ongoing pressures on the budget of the Export Control Organisation (ECO), especially if taken in concert with this apparent new direction, may weaken the rigour and effectiveness of UK’s arms transfer control system. We note that the ECO is looking to broaden the application of general licences (see, for example, the new Open General Export Licence (Military Goods), issued on 6 October 2010 [15] ) and has already been encouraging industry to shift toward applying for open and general rather than standard individual licences. This may well reduce costs, but it may also reduce oversight.

49. The UKWG recommends that the Government clearly set out its continued commitment to the criteria of the Common Position as the fundamental underpinning of the UK arms transfer control system, and clarify its commitment to providing all necessary resources to maintain the integrity and effectiveness of the UK export control system.

Yemen

50. On 25 August 2010 Amnesty International issued a detailed report on the deteriorating human rights situation in Yemen, which also focused on the alleged use of Saudi Arabian combat aircraft in conducting indiscriminate aerial attacks in and around the Sa’sah governate in Northern Yemen. Of particular concern is the possible use of UK-supplied weapons by Saudi armed forces when conflict intensified in the autumn of 2009. Eyewitness testimony, including photographic evidence, clearly conveys a scene of near total devastation, with sustained and intensive bombardment by Saudi Arabian planes reported to have killed hundreds of people, caused widespread damage to homes and infrastructure, and displaced up to 280,000 people. [16]

51. Amnesty International was particularly concerned that two days after publication of its findings, a new Open General Export License (Military Goods: Collaborative Project Typhoon) entered into force, allowing inter alia for the maintenance of Typhoon combat aircraft in Saudi Arabia. It is of serious concern that such a permissive general licence with minimal scrutiny should be available for end-use in Saudi Arabia.

52. Current UK arms export control policy is designed to prohibit the supply of military equipment where there is a clear risk that such equipment will be used in human rights violations or violations of international law, the kind of attacks that appear to have taken place in Yemen during the autumn of 2009.

53. In response to concerns raised by Amnesty International, the Government has stated that it does not consider the actions of Saudi Arabia to be in violation of international law or to raise concerns under the UK consolidated arms export criteria. However, it has also stated that:

The Government remains concerned, however, about the impact of the conflict on Yemeni citizens….it remains very difficult to estimate the impact of military action in Northern Yemen because of a lack of access and the security situation in the area. [17]

54. Given the lack of limited information regarding the scale and nature of these attacks, it is not clear how the Government can be so confident that Saudi Arabia did not misuse UK-supplied aircraft, or other combat aircraft in its arsenal. In light of these events, the Government should:

· Investigate without delay whether military aircraft, weapons, in-country military support to the Saudi Arabian armed forces, or UK personnel have been involved, knowingly or otherwise, in serious violations of international human rights or humanitarian law; and to report these findings to Parliament.

· Pending the results of this investigation, suspend any current or future supplies of military equipment likely to be used to commit or facilitate serious violations of international human rights or humanitarian law;

· Ensure that any future UK military supplies and assistance are conditional upon the establishment of rigorous operational safeguards, including training and accountability systems, designed to prevent the commission of serious violations of international human rights or humanitarian law by the Saudi Arabian armed forces.

November 2010


[1] The UK Working Group on Arms comprises Amnesty UK , Omega Research Foundation, Oxfam GB and Saferworld.

[1] A Vranckx ed., ‘ Rhetoric or restraint? Trade in military equipment under the EU transfer control system—a report to the EU Presidency’, University of Gent , November 2010, http://www.psw.ugent.be/crg/agenda/rhetoric%20or%20restraint_%20.pdf .

[2] Brass-plate companies are those entities that tend not to have an operational presence within the UK but do have a UK-registered address.

[3] Memorandum from the UKWG to the Committees on Arms Export Controls, 2006-07 Session, http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm200607/cmselect/cmquad/117/117we02.htm ; See also, T. Baldwin, ‘Uzbek massacre soldiers used Land Rovers in defiance of arms control promise’ The Times Online , 26 May 2005, http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/world/article526600.ece .

[4] See the Memoranda from the UKWG to the Committees on Arms Export Controls, 2006-07, 2008-09 and 2009-10 Sessions, http://www.parliament.uk/business/committees/committees-a-z/other-committees/committee-on-arms-export-controls/publications/previous-sessions/ .

[5] The UN embargo on Sierra Leone was lifted in September 2010, but the corresponding EU embargo is still in place.

[6] http://www.stopexplosiveinvestments.org/uploads/pdf/Worldwide%20Investments%20in%20Cluster%20Munitions%20-%20April%202010%20update%20full%20report%20DEF.pdf .

[7] http://www.bis.gov.uk/files/file49301.pdf .

[8] Speech by Rt. Hon. Dr. Liam Fox, ‘Radical reform needed in the MoD’, http://www.conservatives.com/News/Speeches/2009/09/Liam_Fox_Radical_reform_needed_at_the_MoD.aspx

[9] J Isaby, ‘Liam Fox attacks Labour's record on defence funding as he promises that a Conservative Government would want to see British defence and security companies flourishing’, Conservative Home , 19 March 2010, http://conservativehome.blogs.com/thetorydiary/2010/03/liam-fox-attacks-labours-record-on-defence-funding-as-he-promises-that-a-conservative-government-wou.html

[10] M Abbas, UK plans arms export drive to offset cuts , Reuters, 23 June 2010, http://uk.reuters.com/article/idUKTRE65M24I20100623 . See also the speech delivered by Secretary of State for Defence at the Farnborough International Air Show on Tuesday, 20 July 2010, http://www.mod.uk/DefenceInternet/AboutDefence/People/Speeches/SofS/20100720FarnboroughInternationalAirShow.htm .

[11] ‘Securing Britain in an age of uncertainty: The Strategic Defence and Security Review’, pp. 44-45.

[12] Ibid, p. 46.

[13] Ibid, p. 66.

[14] Council Common Position 2008/944/CFSP defining common rules governing control of exports of military technology and equipment,, Article 2.5.a, http://eur-lex.europa.eu/LexUriServ/LexUriServ.do?uri=OJ:L:2008:335:0099:0103:EN:PDF . (need to do this footnote in full)

[15] Open General Export Licence (Military Goods), 6 October 2010, http://www.bis.gov.uk/assets/biscore/eco/ogels-current/10-1191-ogel-military-goods.pdf .

[16] “ Yemen : Cracking down under pressure”, Amnesty International Report, August 2010 http://www.amnesty.org.uk/uploads/documents/doc_20631.pdf

[16]

[17] Letter from Mark Prisk MP, Secretary of State, Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, to Amnesty International UK, 18 th September 2010.