A significant increase in UK arms sales worldwide may be boosted after Brexit if London tries to multiply the supply of weapons to regimes with a history of human rights attack, spokesman Andrew Smith of the NGO Campaign Against the Arms Trade (CAAT) said.
A document released by CAAT indicates a considerable increase in UK arms sales, in some cases for nations the UK government itself considers problematic in terms of international law and human rights, such as Saudi Arabia and Bahrain, among others.
In 2017, London had approved arms sales of an increased worth of £1.5bn from the previous year, according to the NGO.
“What we have seen and may have after Brexit is that this government can give more focus than it already has on maximizing arms sales to these regimes with human rights abuses …. Much of the growth came specifically from Saudi Arabia, which has a lot to do with sales of fighters and bombs, which massively affected the total number,” Smith said.
Although a total of 18 nations with “human rights problems” have been listed in the CAAT documents as UK buyers, Saudi Arabia has gone ahead in terms of total purchases, having spent about 1.3 billion pounds on arms from the UK in 2017, according to the spokesman.
“I want to say that arms exports to Saudi Arabia could be even greater than previously thought, and this is of immediate concern, as Saudi forces have been accused of serious violations of international humanitarian law by UN experts, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and almost all respected NGOs with people in Yemen, and the only people who tell us otherwise are the Saudi government that is not even trusted to hold free and fair elections, but that the UK trusts to do audits on themselves in relation to war crimes,” Smith emphasized.
London is an “accomplice” in the destruction of Yemen, as it supplies arms to Saudi Arabia, which leads the coalition that carries out attacks on Yemeni rebels,” the spokesman said.
Human rights activists are especially concerned about the alleged use of the Open Export Independent Licensing (OIELs) in the United Kingdom to deliver weapons to controversial regimes.
According to CAAT, OIELS were previously used to allegedly export “less sensitive materials”, ie without due oversight over quantity or use, which may have caused the total value of such exports to be greater than than originally estimated.