Britain was condemned today for continuing to supply arms to Sri Lanka despite evidence of appalling atrocities committed by the regime.
Campaign Against Arms Trade (Caat) demanded the government explain why it continues to license weapons for export to Sri Lanka as a Channel 4 documentary reveals further evidence of war crimes by the country’s military.
Since the military defeat of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) in May 2009, Britain has licensed over £3 million worth of military and “dual use” equipment for export to Sri Lanka — with arms sales comprising over £2m of the total, Caat said.
Both LTTE and the Sri Lankan government have been accused of committing atrocities during the conflict which is estimated to have killed up to 40,000 civilians.
A panel of experts convened by UN secretary-general Ban Ki Moon reported last year that it had found “credible allegations” of war crimes on both sides.
A cross-party parliamentary committee on arms export controls said that it could not guarantee that British-licensed armaments were not used during the Sri Lankan government bloody attempt to eradicate the LTTE.
And a new documentary Sri Lanka’s Killing Fields: War Crimes Unpunished, screened this week, reveals new evidence of the deliberate shelling of civilians and a hospital by government forces, the denial of food aid to civilians and summary executions, including of a 12-year-old child.
In the first nine months of 2011 the latest date for which figures are available, Britain licensed almost £1.5m worth of exports of which over £1.3m were military.
Among the items exported were armoured vehicles, body armour and “decoying countermeasure equipment and components,” coming under the heading of “grenades, bombs, missiles, countermeasures.”
Caat spokeswoman Kaye Stearman said: “The Arab Spring has bought world attention to the repression practised by governments against against their own people. Sri Lanka’s Killing Fields: War Crimes Unpunished brings a similar focus on the brutality exercised by the government of Sri Lanka against opposing forces and the thousands of helpless civilians trapped in the warzone.