News ID: 4186
Publish Date: 19 February 2011 - 22:38
Fears that UK-supplied weapons are being used by Bahrain's army to brutally attack peaceful protesters have led to arms export licences to the kingdom being revoked
Human rights groups urged the Government to suspend arms exports to Bahrain as protests in the Gulf kingdom continued with police firing tear gas and live rounds on thousands of marchers. The UK has licensed hundreds of cartridges of teargas and other riot control equipment for export to Bahrain in the last nine months and earlier the government announced it was urgently reviewing its licensing decisions.
Earlier Foreign Office Minister Alistair Burt said: “In the last nine months we have approved a range of licences for Bahrain.
“These include two single export licences for 250 tear gas cartridges to the Bahrain Defence Force and National Security Agency that were for trial/evaluation purposes.
“In addition there are a number of open individual export licences that have been approved. One of these includes equipment that can be used for riot control.”
“We will not authorise any exports which, we assess, might provoke or prolong regional or internal conflicts, which might be used to facilitate internal repression, or which would in any other way be contrary to the criteria.
Commenting after the review of arms export, Burt said: “With advice from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills, the licensing authority has taken a decision to revoke 24 individual licences and 20 open licences for Bahrain.”
A "separate decision" was taken to "revoke eight individual licences for Libya", he said.
Foreign Secretary William Hague is insisting there is “no evidence” that British-made products are being used to suppress demonstrators.
But Oliver Sprague, arms programme director of human rights organisation Amnesty International, said: “The government's own figures clearly show the UK has recently licensed crowd control equipment to Bahrain including teargas, assault rifles and machine guns.
“After what we've seen in Bahrain's Pearl roundabout, it looks as if the government's risk-assessment system has been found wanting," he said.
“There have got to be much tighter checks when arms and security equipment is being despatched in cases like this. We need to see an immediate suspension of any further shipments of equipment that could end up being used to violently suppress peaceful protests in Bahrain, or for that matter in countries like Libya, Yemen or Jordan.”
On Thursday Labour MP Denis MacShane called for an end to the export of tear gas, irritant ammunition and riot control equipment to Bahrain while accusing governments of all parties of turning “a blind eye to the repression and corruption” of autocratic regimes in the Middle East.

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