British arms trade policy criticised

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The Independent Online
(First Edition)

BRITAIN has supplied arms to at least 10 countries which violate human rights, according to a report published yesterday, writes Tim Kelsey.

The study by the British American Security Information Council comes one week before the UN World Human Rights Conference opens in Vienna.

This trade, conducted over the last five years, seems to contradict a recent statement by the Foreign Secretary, Douglas Hurd: 'Governments who persist with repressive policies should not expect us to support their folly with scarce aid resources.'

Britain is currently negotiating to supply British Aerospace Hawks, and dollars 800m worth of tank turrets to India, which is widely criticised for human rights abuses.

Indonesia, which has been responsible for the death of up to 200,000 people in the former Portuguese colony of East Timor, is currently negotiating a pounds 1.5bn deal with Britain for Hawk aircraft.

Other clients include Nigeria, which has ordered tanks worth pounds 282m, despite frequent instances of torture; and Brazil, where licences were recently issued to export heavy artillery.

Saudi Arabia is a huge market for British arms. The Al Yamamah deal is worth at least pounds 10bn; but Saudi Arabia's human rights record ranks among the worst. Other countries, with poor human rights records, cited in the report as arms recipients are Pakistan, Kenya, Iraq, Iran, and China.