UK licensed over £16 billion worth of arms to human rights abusing regimes 2010-2019

Source: CAAT/ICN

Government statistics, collated by Campaign Against Arms Trade, shows that from 2010-2019, the UK licensed over £16 billion worth of arms to countries that are listed as 'Not Free' by Freedom House, a respected human rights monitoring group.

In that time the UK has licensed arms to 36 of the 49 countries on the list including: Afghanistan (£105 million), Algeria (£299 million), Angola (£3.5 million), Azerbaijan (£1.6 million), Bahrain (£110 million), Burundi (£298,000), Cambodia (£119,000), Cameroon (£1.7 million), Chad (£3.3 million), China (£232 million), Djibouti (£14 million), Egypt (£218 million), Equatorial Guinea (£993,000), Eswatini (£178,000), Ethiopia (£1.9 million), Gabon (£1.2 million), Kazakhstan (£7.4 million), Laos (£456,000), Libya (£44 million), Oman (£2.5 billion), Qatar (£573 million), Russia (£56 million), Rwanda (£2.4 million), Saudi Arabia (£9.3 billion), Somalia (£9.2 million), South Sudan (£5.6 million), Sri Lanka (£81 million), Sudan (£126,000), Turkey (£1.4 billion), Turkmenistan (£1.3 million), Uganda (£18 million), United Arab Emirates (£1 billion), Uzbekistan (£301,000), Venezuela (£1.4 million), Vietnam (£41 million), Yemen (£3.8 million).

Note: the arms sales to Russia and Libya took place prior to embargoes, with many of those licences being revoked afterwards.

The UK arms trade has been dominated by sales to the Middle East. Of the countries listed, the five largest buyers were:

Saudi Arabia: £9.3 billion (including fighter jets, bombs, missiles, and small arms)
Oman: £2.5 billion (including fighter jets, assault rifles, tank components and tear gas)
Turkey: £1.4 billion (including components for fighter jets and military vehicles, machine guns, sniper rifles and targeting equipment)
United Arab Emirates: £1 billion (including weapon sights, small arms ammunition, assault rifles, 'crowd control ammunition' and electronic warfare equipment)
Qatar: £573 million (including small arms, fighter jet components, ammunition, sniper rifles and gun mountings)

In reality the real total figures will be a great deal higher, with many arms being licensed via the opaque and secretive Open Licence system which allows an unlimited transfer of arms within a fixed time-period. This means that the total values are not published.

Andrew Smith of Campaign Against Arms Trade said: "It has been yet another decade of shameful arms sales and disgraceful alliances. By arming these regimes, Downing Street is sending them a clear message of political and military support. These weapons are not just numbers on a trade sheet, they have been used to empower dictatorships and inflict repression on pro-democracy campaigners.

Wherever there is war and conflict there will also be arms companies trying to fuel it and profit from it. Right now, UK-made arms are playing a central role in the Saudi-led bombardment of Yemen, which has created the worst humanitarian crisis in the world. After so many years of rank hypocrisy, Boris Johnson and his colleagues must finally stop putting arms company profits ahead of human rights."

Pope Francis and the arms trade

On many occasions, Pope Francis has condemned the arms trade and urged world leaders to do the same.

In his speech in May 2014 to seven new ambassadors to the Holy See Pope Francis spoke about peace, saying "everyone talks about peace and everyone claims to want it, but the proliferation of weapons of every type leads in the opposite direction."

He said the arms trade both complicates and distances us from finding solutions to conflicts, especially because "it takes place to a great extent outside the boundaries of the law," and urged the new ambassadors to work toward eradicating the proliferation of weapons.

The Pope was also outspoken about the topic during his September 2015 speech to the US Congress, in which he emphasized that Christians must ask "why are deadly weapons being sold to those who plan to inflict untold suffering on individuals and society?"

"Sadly, the answer, as we all know, is simply for money: money that is drenched in blood, often innocent blood. In the face of this shameful and culpable silence, it is our duty to confront the problem and to stop the arms trade," he said.

In his January 22 2017, speech to the Diplomatic Corps Accredited to the Holy See, he said part of the peace-building process means eradicating the causes of violence and injustice, one of which is the "deplorable arms trade and the never-ending race to create and spread ever more sophisticated weaponry," particularly nuclear weapons.

The Pope's Prayer Intention for June 2017 was the elimination of the arms trade. See:

In the video the Pope says: "it's an absurd contradiction to speak of peace, to negotiate peace, and at the same time promote or permit the arms trade. Is this war or that war really a war to solve problems, or is it a commercial war for selling weapons in illegal trade, and so that the merchants of death get rich? Let us put an end to this situation," he said. "Let us pray all together that national leaders may firmly commit themselves to ending the arms trade which victimizes so many innocent people."


Pope Francis: The rich who sell weapons are responsible for wars April 7th, 2019 -

Tags: Arms Trade, CAAT, Campaign Against the Arms Trade, Pope Francis

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