MPs up in arms over use of weapons

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Indy Politics

Ministers were yesterday accused by MPs of misjudging the risk that British arms exports to countries such as Libya and Bahrain would be used to suppress their own people.

The Commons Committees on Arms Export Controls disclosed that as recently as last year, UK companies were given licences to sell equipment ranging from small arms and tear-gas canisters to armoured personnel carriers to countries in the region. While they welcomed the revocation of 156 export licences to Libya, Bahrain, Egypt and Tunisia since the recent uprising, they said the Government still needed to reconcile its wish to promote arms sales with its duty to uphold human rights.

Last year, approval was given for the export to Libya of small-arms ammunition, crowd-control ammunition, tear-gas/irritant ammunition and technology for infrared and thermal-imaging equipment. For Bahrain, licences were issued for sub-machine guns, sniper rifles, CS hand grenades, smoke canisters, stun grenades, and tear-gas and riot-control agents.

The report said the Government's review on the issuing of licences for countries in the region should be extended to cover all authoritarian regimes around the world.