Despite Sri Lanka’s dire human rights record, and the Foreign Office still classifying Sri Lanka as a “country of concern” for rights abuses, British small arms and weaponry worth at least £3m including pistols, rifles, assault rifles, body armour and combat shotguns were sold in the three months between July and September last year, The Independent reported. The figures on Britain’s most recent arms sales come from the Government’s own Export Controls Organisation, the paper said.
More than £2m of the sales came under the “ML1” label – a category used by the Government to denote small arms and weapons. Export licences were granted on four separate occasions – once in July and three times in August. In total the Government approved the sale of 600 assault rifles, 650 rifles, 100 pistols and 50 combat shotguns. The sales also included £330,000-worth of ammunition and £655,000 in body armour, the paper added.
“Given Sri Lanka’s shameful military record and its continuing abuse of human rights, it seems extraordinary that the Government has approved these export licences for small arms and ammunition. In 2011-12, not a single licence application for these items was refused, even though the Foreign Office lists Sri Lanka as a ‘country of concern’ for its human rights record,” the paper quoted Kaye Stearman, from the Campaign Against Arms Trade, as saying.
Ms Stearman said researchers have increasingly seen anti-piracy measures being used by the Government to justify arms sales but that the final destination for such weapons is often ambiguous. “Since the licence end-user is not listed, and the notes are often worded ambiguously, we don’t know which weapons are intended for this use,” she said.